Akbar first won the Pakistan national title at the age of 19
Pakistan’s top player Hamza Akbar will play in an individual pro tournament for the first time at the International Championship qualifiers next week.
Akbar earned a two-year tour card by winning this year’s Asian Championship, beating Pankaj Advani 7-6 in the final in Malaysia. He then represented his country at the World Cup in China, narrowly missing out on a place in the knock-out phase. Pakistan beat Northern Ireland 4-1 in their last group match when a 5-0 win would have seen them progress to the quarter-finals.
Akbar, age 21, initially struggled to secure a visa to come to the UK and pursue his snooker ambitions, but has now overcome that problem and is based at Oldham Snooker Academy. Next week he will head to the Barnsley Metrodome to take on Mark Joyce, with the winner to go through to the final stages of the International Championship in Daqing.
“I was extremely happy to gain a tour card by winning the Asian title,” said Akbar. “It’s a great feeling as I am the only professional from Pakistan and I am representing 180 million Pakistanis.
“My objective is to improve my ranking and remain on the tour. I am really disappointed to have missed the first three events due to visa issues so I need to catch up.”
Snooker’s popularity is growing in Pakistan, particularly among the younger generation – in fact World Snooker’s Facebook page has more fans from there than any country outside the UK.
Akbar, who won his national title in 2012 and again this year, added: “There are some exceptional players in Pakistan. In the past they struggled financially as there were no sponsors. This is not the case now. Players are given monthly salaries to play for organisations such as banks. Sponsors are now coming forward due to our success and giving players financial security. I was supported by the National Bank of Pakistan and I am forever grateful.
“My dream is to become World Champion one day but I know it won’t be easy, particularly as China and Thailand are producing very good players.
“I would to thank PBSA for their help and support, as well as Mohammed Omar in Faisalabad, my home city, and Mohammed Nisar of Oldham Snooker Academy. If it wasn’t for their help I would not have made it to the UK.”
The International Championship qualifiers run from September 30 to October 3 and entry for fans is FREE! Click here for more details.