We don’t really see a fourteen year old kid holding a cue stick and practicing snooker- especially not in a country like Nepal, where snooker is mostly popular among the urban kids. That too is usually only among the male members. Commonly a ‘smoking junction’ among the youths in Nepal – snooker houses are often filled with young enthusiasts, some actually playing the game while some sit and watch to learn the game that, so far, hasn’t been centralised at a national level.
But that didn’t stop one dedicated enthusiast from doing something about it. Niraj Thapa Magar, a renowned national snooker player had to go through a lot to earn the title he has today. Working at a guest house as a waiter Niraj, at the age of fourteen, began hitting balls around the snooker table for something to do. The guest house with two snooker boards were always circled by young people betting things and money and yelling at themselves for not hitting the ball right!
All this enthusiasm had a positive effect on Niraj, so much that he didn’t hesitate to practice the game even in the witching hours. As a waiter, Niraj was not allowed to enter the snooker house when there were other people. ‘I liked the game, but as a waiter I was not allowed to enter the snooker house because our manager was very strict about this.’
Yes, not always in life you get to do what you want to do. But this seldom discouraged Niraj. Taking his evident talent and passion for the game into consideration, the managers were lenient enough to let him hit some stick during the night after the closing hours. ‘I used to enter the snooker house after midnight and practice for as long as I could under the table light that barely reached the table,’ says Niraj.
Getting the things that you want in life does not come easy. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Yes, when sometimes Niraj visited the snooker house he was scolded and beaten not only by the managers but by customers too, often for the simplest of causes. However, most were a site of encouragement. ‘I was a cute young boy and I used to get healthy tips from some customers’ he adds. Keenly watching game after game, the customers soon caught on that Niraj was both good at and enthralled by the game.
The staff would always call him for a game or two and bet with him as they knew he received good money from the customers. ‘The staff in the guest house knew about my passion for the game and would call me in the hall for a game and put a bet with me,’ continues Niraj. But sadly he lost most of the time. He had to pay money for each time he lost. This however, motivated his passion for the game and fuelled his thirst to improve. He continued playing during off hours. By this time the managers decided to change his job from a waiter to a marker at the snooker table. This is where he really learnt about his game and went to become a mature player. Niraj is forever indebted to his managers for that little change they made with his job.
With enough encouragement, Niraj participated in the Asian Games 2064. After that he played various domestic tournaments and has established his name as one the top players in the country.
With increased coordination in organizing such events, our players could do a lot better and represent themselves in various international events. But the development should always start from the grassroots level, therefore, organizing domestic competitions should be given a top priority that will encourage more players which will turn to increase in high competition and eventually bring out good quality players. Only making new snooker houses won’t help. There are many determined players like Niraj who can actually do something for the nation through this game, only with a little bit of support. Billiards, Snooker and Pool Association (BSPAN) which was formed in 1994, looked promising but is no longer in business like it used to be. Only after continuing major tournaments, people like Niraj Thapa Magar will be able to go international and make our country renowned to the rest of the world.
Otherwise snooker, too, will be just another story.
Niraj’s Snooker Tips
Playing snooker has a lot to do with psychology. If you are confident then you play better. Be positive, make your mind up what shot and play it. What ball do you look at when you strike the white? The answer is always the object ball. This is always for every player. You do not look at the white or the end of your tip, just the cue ball.
Being good at snooker is a real pleasure. After all you practice hard, you reach a good standard and the game is so enjoyable. It is vital to play on different tables. Of course it is good to play a lot on one table because it can give you confidence but you must get used to playing on all types of tables and conditions. To be a champion is not just about talent, it is about dedication and determination.