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'Cue sport should be popularized'

Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has pledged his fullest support to develop the cue sport in preparation for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The Billiards and Snooker Association officials revealed this to the Media during a press conference held at their Reid Avenue Head Quarters recently.

The Billiards and Snooker Association of Sri Lanka (BSASL) received an highly positive reply when they had a lengthy discussion with the Sports Minister. Billiards has brought Sri Lanka to the international sports map when M. J. M Lafir won the country's first ever World Championship title in 1973 for any sport by beating India's Sathis Mohan in the final held in Bombay, India. Since then the cue sport gained popularity in the country but has experienced a major set back in the past few decades due to various reasons.

The BSASL President Shafeek Rajabdeen said that they have articulated an year plan to develop the sport which will put into action with a seminar and a training programme as a first step. The training programme commenced on June 24 and will continue till June 26 at the BSASL Head Quarters. 50 young players including freshers to the cue sport will benefit from this training which will guide them from the initial stage.

Ten cueists from the participants will selected to master the cue sport in the next two years under an intensive training programme. BSASL has planned to seek international coaches' assistance to mould these selected budding talents and the players will also get the opportunity to participate in future international tournaments. The course director Sarath J de Alwis said that they will educate the participants on the new international standards and rules of the cue sport during the programme.

The 60th National Snooker Championships will see all the country's elite cueists in action where they compete for the U. W. Sumathipala Memorial Trophy. Initial round of the National Championships will be conducted on District basis on a best of three frames format and will start from the Galle District on July 15 will be followed by the Colombo District on 16th and 17th.

The 'Sumathi Group' has continued their sponsorship for the 12th consecutive year for the event. The highest number of entries (80) have received from the Colombo District while Kandy and Galle Districts listed 50 and 15 respectively for the event. The reigning champion is Susantha Boteju.

Explaining this year's tournament calender Rajabdeen said that the ongoing open eight-ball competition will conclude on July 3 and the nine-ball event will be geared up with the preliminary round on July 9 and 10 while the final will be held on July 14 at 6.00 pm at the BSASL Head Quarters.

Rajabdeen further said even though Sri Lanka has achieved few isolated international victories after Lafir's triumph we have failed to secure our position at international level. Henry Boteju has emerged champion in the four nation inaugural championships beating India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1987. Susantha Boteju qualified for the Asian semi finals in 1996 while K. H. Sirisoma, 20-time National Champion has booked a place among the last 16 in the World Billiard Championships in 2004

Indika Dodangoda who qualified for the semi finals at the World Junior Championships in 1992 has claimed the highest break of 132. Susantha Boteju and M S M Naufer impressed the crowds in the under-21 snooker category in 1991.

The BSASL president said that the Sports Minister has promised to give four new pool tables and will provide with all necessary equipments.

There are over 50 local clubs participating in tournaments with more than 200 players in Snooker, Billiards and Pool games showing great prowess for the future development of the sport.

BSASL will introduce the six-ball game format to Sri Lanka as it has gained rapid popularity among other countries in the region. BSASL Selection Committee chairman Sarath J de Alwis said that the cue sport in Sri Lanka has stagnated while the other countries developed their standards surpassing us. As Sports Minister suggested we have to take the sport to outstations and BSASL will commence it through Distict Sports Officers by giving them a basic knowledge of the sport to identify rural talents.

The BSASL Assistant Secretary Sqd Ldr. Nandana Jayalath, Selection Committee member Major Chandradasa, Tournament Secretary Cyril Wijesinghe and Chief Referee Ameer Mukthar were also present at the press conference.

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