I won because of 220m prayers: Ahsan Ramzan

Pakistan’s 16-year-old cueist dedicates IBSF world championship win to late parents

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KARACHI: “There was this decider frame. I was not playing for myself really. I was playing for my people and for my country. I was feeling happy but I knew that this was a huge responsibility. A tiny mistake on my part would have taken the title off my hands,” said Ahsan Ramzan, 16, the newly crowned International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) men’s world champion, showing more maturity on and off the table than many people twice his age, as he reflected after the win in Doha on Friday night.

The teenager showed incredible finesse during his final against the formidable Amir Sarkhosh of Iran. Ahsan beat him 6 frames to five with scores of 63-60, 91-0 (70), 56-34, 01-102 (102), 28-68, 27-66, 86-18, 1-70, 69-0, 63-17, 67-25 in the best of 11 frames final, which lasted for more than five hours, exposing not just the mental strength but an emotional depth that only the two cueists would know.

The cueist from Lahore proved his mettle as he bounced back into the match after being 5-3 down.

The dramatic final saw incredible moments from both players till the last frame of the match when Ahsan gave away few points before sealing the win.

Ahsan kept the world title with Pakistan, as two-time champion Muhammad Asif was defending his title from the win in 2019.

Ahsan defeated Asif 5-4 in the semifinal, while Pakistan’s third player former Asian Championship Muhammad Sajjad faced 5-4 defeat against Sarkhosh in the semifinal on Thursday.

It was also the first time Pakistan saw all three of the fielded cueists make it to semis.

“My confidence after defeating Asif bhai in the semifinal was very high. I was really expecting to win the final,” Ashan continued to share his thoughts with The Express Tribune in the calmest way after cutting teeth at the international level among the best IBSF has to offer. “When it came down to the final, I was happy, because there were nearly 220 million prayers with me.”

The 30-year-old Sarkhosh took a mellowed tactic, but Ahsan remained focused on the promise he made when he lost the quarterfinal of the U21 World Championship last week. Ahsan, who picked up snooker when he was eight, had struck a break of 147, which is a rare sight to be achieved in snooker let alone by a 16-year-old.

The champion dedicated his performance and the title to his parents, mother Irshad Bibi and father Muhammad Yousuf who are not with him anymore.

“I want to dedicate this title to my mama and papa. I want to do my best and try harder till my last breath, as long as I am alive. I want to win this title again too. I made the people of my country proud. I raised the Pakistani flag higher through my efforts.

“I want to make my parents proud. They are not in this world with me anymore, but their prayers are with me. I feel even Allah helps me a lot, so my plan is to continue playing, continue doing what I am doing,” said Ahsan.

Assan explains that his passion and motivation for playing snooker is an extension of a wish and the prayer his father made when he was alive.

“My papa had set up the table in our house. When I used to see him play, I used to get this feeling that I can play too. But he would lift me up and have me sit on the table, telling me to really leave the idea. He would not take it seriously, we all laughed about it and at times he would scold me when I played. But when I started playing, he saw that I could pot the balls and I had a good hit, so he said that I will become a champion.

“He said that he could see me become the world champion too. That is my dream and prayer for you,” recalled Ahsan showing the love of his father engrained in every match he plays.

No sponsors or support

Ahsan’s journey has been nothing but a story of a legend at just 16 years of age. His talent is speaking for itself, but like many other talented Pakistani players, there is a fear that his talent may go to waste in the absence of sponsors.

“Ahsan had been playing from a very young age, and he has displayed immense talent and determination,” said team manager Naveed Kapadia. “Ramzan is a boy who has been very special. The thing is he does not have his parents, his mother passed away when he was very young, and his father when he was playing the National Championship in 2018. But he has been very patient and persistent.”

Ahsan practices to improve his skills regularly at an academy in Lahore, with the help of the Punjab association vice president.

Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association President Jawid Karim had been very supportive of Ahsan as well.

He emerged as a shining talent when he first played the National Championship for juniors in 2017.

Ahsan represented the State Bank of Pakistan for a year on contractual basis, till he was let go recently due to the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan’s order on closing the departmental teams, leaving many cueist jobless.

“Without practice no player can win this kind of title; no player can win anything,” explained Kapadia. “There is a dire need of sponsors for Ahsan, for him to progress further. If he doesn’t win the title again, he will not get the appreciation the same way. Let’s say if he loses in the National Championship people will criticise him.

“So for him to continue training at a high level, work hard, keep his focus off of the mundane life and making ends meet, it is essential that he gets the sponsors, or else his talent will go to waste the same way as many other cueists suffer.”

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