Africa’s finest: Hatem Yaseen
Hatem Yaseen earned a place on the World Snooker Tour for the first time by winning the 2015 African Championship, beating fellow Egyptian Mohamed Khairy 6–5 in the final.
We caught up with the 28-year-old as he looked ahead to playing on the pro tour…
Hatem, how excited are you as you prepare to play on the professional tour for the first time?
Well, every snooker player’s dream is to win the World Championship or become the world number one at some point of their career, and I’m no different – though I started playing snooker at the age of 18 which is relatively late compared to most professional players. The idea of playing on the pro tour for the first time is pretty exciting. I don’t feel it has sunk in yet – it probably will once I play my first match on the tour. I get all sorts of ideas about what it will be like. Will I manage to qualify for the final stages of a ranking tournament? Will I ever get the opportunity to play one of my idols? Will the match be televised? Those are the questions I’m asking myself!
Is there a player you would most like to play against, or a venue you would most like to play at?
I would like to play Ronnie O’Sullivan or Mark Selby, they are my two favourite players. Ronnie has amazing talent, magical touch and his break building is second to none. Mark has tenacity, a never-give-up attitude and he’s a great match-player. I would really like to watch them play from the best seat in the house and I believe I would benefit hugely from the experience. As for venues, the Crucible Theatre is the first one that springs to mind. The audience is so close to the players so it would probably feel a bit claustrophobic. I would love to experience the atmosphere, the excitement and the anticipation it brings everyone. I dream of the one table setup and the dead silence that falls during a break…until a mobile phone rings and Jan Verhaas has the culprit escorted out of the arena!
What are your targets for the next two years?
It is all very clear in my head. I would like to experience life as a pro, as opposed to working during the day and trying my hardest to juggle a few hours practice here and there in the evening. I want to gain as much experience as I can, see how much I can improve over the two years on the tour, climb up the rankings and try to hold my spot on the tour. Making a few quid along the way wouldn’t hurt either.
Is winning the 2015 African Championship your best moment in snooker so far?
Absolutely. It has to be my best moment because it crowned ten years of passion, hard work and self belief. It also meant I got a two year invite to the World Snooker Tour, which was way up there with my goals.
Will you be coming to live in the UK during the season?
I definitely want to, but it all depends whether or not I can secure a sponsor for that period. There are a couple of potential interests but nothing definite so far.
Do many people play or watch snooker in Egypt?
For a country of nearly 90 million people, the figures may not be encouraging. But we have a large number of social clubs and there are at least two tables in each club, and there’s always someone playing throughout the day. We also get Eurosport on satellite television and there are surprisingly large numbers of followers, especially when the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan or Judd Trump are playing.