Besides editing a website and providing snooker news to Italian fans, the team of Snooker Italia aim to promote the sport in Italy and develop its local infrastructure. Máté Varga, editor of Hungarian blog Kezdőlökés, interviewed Marco Staiano, founder of Snooker Italia, to find out more.
What were the first steps in the history of Snooker Italia?
At the very beginning, Snooker Italia revolved around the idea of informing snooker fans about professional events in Italian language. A website was created; we have been writing articles for two years and plan further developments. Before Snooker Italia, there were attempts to make the sport more popular in Italy, but those efforts proved to be fruitless. Snooker is not something you can read about in various magazines, that is why we needed a platform where we can deal exclusively with the game. The reception from local players and some other people was amazing. This experience encouraged us to pursue our dreams. Now, we want to put Italy on the snooker map.
You have become a team of snooker enthusiasts who already sponsor and work with amateur players.
Earlier, I had the pleasure to make an interview with Dominic Dale, who wore our logo during his Scottish Open clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan about a year ago. Then, some additions to the Snooker Italia team were made. Four Italian players, Marco Palmieri, Valerio Grandi, Eugenio Staccione and Simone Coviello joined us, now they receive financial support and valuable opportunities to improve. For instance, Michael Holt and Peter Devlin visited us for a training session in the recent past.
On the other hand, we focus on keeping in touch with players who are closely connected to Italy in some ways. We work together with Maria Catalano, who played at the Crucible wearing Snooker Italia’s logo during the World Seniors Championship and is extremely proud of her Italian roots. We also sponsor Vito Puopolo who has gained the Canadian National and the PABSA Seniors Championship titles, so he will be able to compete at next year’s World Seniors Championship.
What is the general aim of Snooker Italia?
We feel blessed because a lot of amazing, open-minded, easy-to-reach people work within our sport. The key to our development is remaining visible on an international level as well as enabling ourselves to grow locally. We feel that our plans can be turned into reality since our local Federation is willing to help us. The goal is to make our compatriots interested in snooker and to develop our own players. We do not expect results to happen in an instant, but we take everything seriously and jump at every single chance to move things forward.
What do you think is important to do to attract youngsters?
The hardest challenge is to provide something for the younger generations. From a technical point of view, we need to increase the number of tables, promote snooker in schools and create a friendly environment. That is how you can change the attitude towards the sport. In Poland – a country that started literally from zero – a successful model was built, and we must learn from their example. We have a coaching support program locally and I plan to bring in some international coaches next year.
What do you think about the popularity of snooker in Italy?
Even though five-pin billiards has always been dominant, snooker is no stranger in our cue sports culture. Just to mention a few historic moments, Barry Hearn’s Matchroom Team visited Italy during the Norwich Union Grand Prix in the late 1980s and we had several active and talented players in the 1990s and 2000s such as Daniele Zagaroli, Andrea Barbacane, Roberto Frezza and Claudio Ravagnani. Sergio Beggiato was also a great prospect; he has Italian roots but represented England. To make an impact in terms of popularity, you need publicity. Like in some other countries of Europe, Eurosport’s television coverage helped sports fans connect with snooker. In Italy, the number of viewers is relatively high, but most of the followers are from an older age group.
What are your personal plans?
I believe in the Snooker Italia project and the driving force behind my actions is the will of doing something for Italian snooker. I am to become a journalist and Snooker Italia is to be recognised as an online newspaper. Me and three of my colleagues work on the development of the website to offer a better user experience for our readers. Moreover, I want the team to go to the United Kingdom to play and train. We have the vision of organizing a tournament in Italy to attract amateurs from all over Europe. There is still a lot of work to do, but we believe that with the help of the right people, our future will be bright.