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Saudi Arabia’s sporting push embraces billiards, with a golden ball

by SuperiorInvest

Ronnie O’Sullivan poses with the trophy after winning against Judd Trump on day 7 of the 2024 Spreadex World Grand Prix at Morningside Arena on January 21, 2024 in Leicester, England.

Tai Chengzhe | China Visual Group | fake images

Saudi Arabia will hold its first major invitational snooker event in March as the kingdom continues to make considerable investments in a growing number of sports.

The “Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker” will take place from March 4 to 6 at the Boulevard Arena in the capital of Riyadh.

The inaugural event will feature some of the world’s best pool players, including Ronnie O’Sullivan, widely recognized as one of the most talented players in the history of the sport, 2019 world champion Judd Trump and world champion of 2023, Luca Brecel.

Games of snooker, a sport similar to snooker that is very popular in the UK and China, will be run under the current World Snooker rules, but with the introduction of a 23rd ball known as the “Season” ball. of Riyadh”. This Ballon d’Or will be worth 20 points but will only be drinkable after completing a maximum pause.

It’s unclear when this ball will be introduced into the standard table setup, but it does mean that the highest possible score in the event will be 167, rather than the traditional top score of 147.

“We are delighted to host our first professional billiards tournament in the Kingdom,” said Turki Alalshikh, Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority of Saudi Arabia.

“Billiards is watched and played by millions of people around the world and we look forward to welcoming some of the best billiards players and fans to our country and showing them what Saudi Arabia and Riyadh Season have to offer,” Alalshikh said in a statement published on January 1. 18.

Saudi Arabia has spent an extraordinary amount on sports investments in recent years, pouring money into football, Formula One, golf, tennis and boxing.

Critics have repeatedly accused the kingdom of “sportswashing,” or using sports to distract from human rights abuses in the country. Saudi officials have consistently denied these claims.

“A considerable prize”

Seven-time world champion O’Sullivan spoke of his excitement about playing in Saudi Arabia shortly after winning the World Grand Prix title for the third time on Sunday.

“What is the prize for a 167? Have they announced it?” O’Sullivan said in an interview posted on the World Snooker Tour YouTube channel. “I’m sure it will be a considerable prize.”

He added: “Listen, the Saudis can do whatever they want; they are a powerful team. I think it will be good, it would be great to go out and play, all the other sports seem to be doing things in Saudi Arabia, so it would be great to go out there.” .

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans to make its domestic soccer league an international superstar hub suffered a setback last week.

England international Jordan Henderson abruptly ended his playing time in Saudi Arabia’s Pro League on Thursday and decided to sign for Dutch side Ajax on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

Henderson’s early departure from Saudi Arabia led many to speculate about possible damage to the reputation of the country’s top domestic league.

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