"It was amazing to beat India in their own backyard."
The skillset of Pakistani snooker players has enabled them to compete with the very best in the sport.
The sport has a long history, with Latif Amir Baksh winning the first national championship in 1967.
From taking a back seat initially, snooker became a widely played sport around the country. From the late eighties going into the new millennium, many great Pakistani snooker players have come up the ranks.
Most of these snooker players have many achievements to their name both nationally and Internationally.
Highlights of these Pakistani snooker players include winning gold medals and becoming multiple national champions.
We spotlight 5 top Pakistani snooker players who have done well in the sport and made their country proud. We also provide exclusive reactions from the players.
Muhammad Yousaf is one of the classiest Pakistani snooker players of his generation. Yousaf was born in Mumbai, India, during 1952. He later came to settle in Lahore, Punjab Pakistan.
The Karachi resident has always had a business-like demeanour on the table. Yousaf had a good run of success at the peak of his career.
He holds the record for winning eight national championships in 1987, 1989,1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 1996 and 1997.
He made history when clinching the 1994 International Billiards & Snooker Federation (IBSF) World Snooker Championship in Johannesburg.
He beat Johannes R. Johannesson (ISL) 11-9 in a close match to win gold. He won the World Amateur Championship at a time when there were very little expectations of him.
Four years later, he bagged yet another gold at the 1998 ACBS Asian Snooker Championship. He narrowly overcame Phirom Ritthiprasong (THA) 8-7 in the final.
He then went onto claim the 2006 IBSF World Masters Championship in Jordan. Yousaf won the deciding frame against Glen Wilkinson (AUS) to register a 5-4 win.
Mohammed Yousaf coaches regularly in Pakistan, helping youngsters along the way.
Shokat Ali is one of the greatest snooker players to represent Pakistan across the world. The Pakistani descent cueist was born in Accrington, Lancashire, England on March 4, 1970.
Shokat excelled for Pakistan and when playing on the professional snooker circuit. At the height of his career, he made history by becoming the first snooker player to bag a cue sports gold medal.
He accomplished this amazing feat at the 13th Asian Games in Thailand between December 6-8, 1998. Despite the final going to the wire, Shokat was eventually triumphant 7-6 against Sam Chong (MAS).
Shokat was honoured with the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz by the Pakistan government for being a gold medallist. Shokat also claimed silver medals in the doubles and team events during the same multi-sport event.
Additionally, Shokat had a successful professional snooker career, playing from 1991 to 2007.
Whilst playing on the highest stage of snooker he ousted crowd favourites Ronnie O’ Sullivan and Jimmy White in ranking events.
His highest ranking was 34, along with a high break of 139. He had a total of twenty-nine-century breaks during his professional career.
His best ranking finish was reaching the quarter-finals of the 2001 Thailand Masters. Summing up his career, Shokat states:
“I always wanted to be a snooker player. I love the sport. And I played during the golden era in the mid-80s.
“I played against some of the famous names you can think of in snooker. It was fantastic to play the game. And I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
Following retirement, Shokat went onto manage the Elite Snooker Club Preston with former professional player Chris Norbury.
Besides managing a snooker club, Shokat also coaches both in the UK and overseas.
Khurram Hussain Agha
Khurram Hussain Agha is a top international Pakistani snooker player who resides in Bury, Lancashire, UK.
He was born in the city of Karachi on October 18, 1976. Khurram was leading the Pakistan rankings for five years from 2004 to 2008.
He has won the national snooker ranking championships five times also during the same period. Khurram was also the number three best player in Asia during 2007.
At the amateur level, Khurram has played in the World Championships, which also featured top players such as Mark Allen (NI), Ding Junhui (CHI) an Neil Robertson (AUS).
Outside Pakistan, his most memorable moment came in India when he won a national team series against the arch-rivals.
The Pakistan team won the close neck series in Chandigarh, which included singles and doubles matches.
Saleh Mohammed, Muhammad Yousaf, Naveen Parvani and Atiq Latif Baksh were the other team members to feature in the series.
Speaking about the historic win, Khurram says:
“It was amazing to beat India in their own backyard. We came back to Pakistan, receiving a hero’s welcome.
“Officials from the association also came to receive us at the airport.”
His highest break in competitive tournament play is 144, which was made at a Karachi club during 1999-2000.
He made the move to the UK, along with his family. His wife is a doctor and he also has a beautiful special needs child.
Khurram is hoping to explore how he can take snooker forward creatively.
Mohammad Asif is an excellent and consistent Pakistani snooker player from the modern era.
Asif was born in the third most populous city of Faisalabad on March 17, 1982. He made waves in the snooker world after clinching the 2012 IBSF World Snooker Championships.
The nail-biting best of nine frames final saw Asif defeating Gary Wilson (ENG) 10-8 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Asif was 6-3 and 7-5 up during the match before Wilson made it 8-8. However, Asif held his nerves to take the last two frames.
Five years later Asif and Babar bagged the 2017 IBSF World 6-Red Team championship title. They defeated fellow compatriots Muhammad Sajjad and Asjad Iqbal 5-4 in the final.
The Pakistani duo also won the 2018 Asian Team Snooker Championship, beating India 3-2 in the final.
Asif and Babar took the title after closely overcoming Pankaj Advani and Malkeet 3-2 in Doha, Qatar. Asif made history after claiming his second IBSF World Snooker Championship in the November 2019 final.
He tamed Jeffrey Roda (PHI) 8-5 in Antalya, Turkey. He had a hero’s welcome upon returning to Pakistan.
His experience came to count against his young opponent who was half his age. Asif mentions this triumph was really special than the first time:
“It was a great honour to win the World Championship for the second time. It was very special because it was challenging. I was playing with the help of pain killers.”
Asif has also won the National Championship four-times, in 2009, 2012, 207 and 2020.
Hamza Akbar is like the number two best cueist to come from Pakistan. He was born in Faisalabad, formerly known as Lyallpur, on November 12, 1993.
He came to notice when he won the difficult Under 21- Punjab tournament twice. In 2013, he became the youngest national championship winner.
Two years later, he went onto reclaiming the national champion title, completing a comfortable 8-4 victory against Shahram Changezi in the final.
His first big achievement from a global perspective came at the 2015 Asian Games. At the age of twenty-two, he collected a gold medal after an epic final against Pankaj Advani (IND).
He won the nerve-wracking match 7-6 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia during the month of April. Commenting on this pressure match, Hamza said:
“This was the biggest match of my life against Pankaj Advani. Thankfully I kept myself and controlled my nerves and game very well. I was calm, I kept my body still.
“The last black was the pressure pot. I had some water and got the white ball cleaned.
“After potting the black, it was a great feeling knowing the flag of Pakistan will be raised.”
Subsequently, Hamza was able to feature on the main World Snooker tour, earning a two-year card initially. He tour place was extended by two years further as a result of a special dispensation.
Up until 2019, Hamza made it to the last 32 of a ranking tournament on three occasions. This includes the 2018 Snooker Shoot-Out, 2018 Norther Ireland Open and 2019 Gibraltar Open Ireland.
Hamza and Mohammad Asif have also set up a snooker academy in their hometown.
Other Pakistani snooker players who deserve a special mention for representing Pakistan include Farhan Mirza and Muhammad Sajjad.
With the success and accomplishments of Shokat Ali and Hamza Akbar, hopefully, more Pakistani snooker player will shine in the game, as well as qualify for the main snooker tour.