Malaysian snooker soldiers on, with or without help

Just as news broke that Lim Kok Leong became the first cue artist in Malaysia to be crowned world champion, the congratulatory messages quickly flooded in.

Lim’s achievement was even recognised by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who congratulated him via a posting on Istana Negara’s social media platforms.

And barely 24 hours later, the snooker player was forgotten.

Lim made headlines 11 days ago for his historic win after he defeated Iran’s Amir Sarkhosh 5-0 in the final held in Antalya, Turkiye.

Last month, Lim and teammate Moh Keen Hoo won the world amateur team title in Pandan Indah, just outside Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle.

Despite the victories, life on the green baize remains the same for the snooker players and the Malaysia Snooker and Billiards Federation (MSBF).

“It’s not easy to get sponsors. The support, regardless from the public or the private sector, isn’t forthcoming at the moment,” admitted MSBF president Melvin Chia.

“All these years, we have been very independent. We have no choice. The boys work in snooker centres, and when it comes to national duty, they have supportive bosses who allow them to compete.

“After all, when they win, they win for the country and bring glory to the snooker centres they are attached to.”

Chia said the National Sports Council (NSC) had offered the cue artists to train full-time under its stable.

“The RM2,000-odd monthly allowances by NSC will work for youngsters, those without families. For athletes with families, it’s difficult to train full-time and live on that kind of money. That’s the reality,” he said.

Elite athletes who train under the NSC’s programmes get a monthly allowance and are also given accommodation and meals at its premises in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur.

The sport still struggles to break out of its “parlour” image, despite snooker centres having cleaned up their act by ensuring that their premises are smoke-free, and free from illegal betting activities.

Yet, its athletes continue to be the hope of the decision-makers, especially during the SEA Games, often offering podium finishes to help the Malaysian contingent save its blushes in the overall tally.

“We are moving forward to the pace that we can afford. If we had the support, the progress could be faster.

“We are forced to contribute during the SEA Games. If we don’t, we will be completely left out.”

Despite the challenges, the federation is keen to unearth more talents.

An Under-21 junior championship will be held in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, early next month.

“We are hoping to tap into the younger generation of talents. We need between three and five years to develop players.

“Some of them are already playing quite well and they can be the future of the sport,” he added.

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