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Benny Delvaux: nostalgia to the Western world

Posted by on December 3, 2013

Benny Delvaux: nostalgia to the Western world

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Benny Delvaux takes up his beloved billiard hobby in Hurghada

HURGHADA - Far away from home, a week's break from the day-to-day, but in the world where he feels most at home, surrounded by friends from the Belgian world of refereeing and top billiard players from all over the world. Benny Delvaux (50), born in Belgium, stationed in Abu Dabi in the United Arab Emirates for work since 2007, travels back to the Western world three times a year. He spends his holidays with his family (two sons and a daughter-in-law), and takes up his beloved hobbies: playing billiards (at a modest level), and refereeing.

The latter especially, because Benny Delvaux is one of the best in Belgium, Europe or the world. Just ask the players, and they will be unanimous: Benny is formal, knows the positions, has a feel for the game and sees everything.

Ten days at the European Championship in Brandenburg, earlier this year, the annual Belgian highlight in Blankenberge (the multinationals), and now the World Cup in Hurghada. They are the pearls in the referee's crown of the likeable Belgian, who started his career aged twenty, in the earliest days of Eddy Merckx's billiard room.

,,I was a member of "De Drie Bollekes" in Boom, but that club ceased to exist. Eddy Merckx had the intention of opening a place, but without billiards. I went over and told him: "if you want to open a room, this is the time". That is how BC De Maen started, and Eddy and I became good friends.''

His billiard career took off quickly: he could hold his own in the free game, and later balkline and one-cushion. ,,As we all did, I took up three cushion at some point. I took a few lessons from Eddy, and it got me as far as 0.750 to 0.800 average.''

His talent did not get a chance to blossom further, because as a start-up manager at Borealis, he was sent abroad increasingly. First it was Austria, Germany and Sweden. Six years ago, he was dispatched to Abu Dabi.

The Belgian cosmopolitan, now fluent in six languages, remembers: ,,My company Borealis got into a joint venture with Adnoc in the Emirates. They supply the oil, we supply the technology.'' At home in Abu Dabi, he has a billiard, but the work takes up so much time that he hardly has hours left to practice. ,,I could play much better, but I don't have the match toughness to see it through. Billiards is supposed to also be fun, but at the table I put way too much pressure on myself.''

As a referee, Benny Delvaux rose to the top swiftly, in spite of his travelling: first on the regional level, than nationally, and six years ago he was promoted to CEB referee. He calls it "a superb hobby", with the recent World Championship in Antwerp as its pinnacle. ,The ultimate place for a referee to be.''

Three times a year he is back in Belgium or at another tournament, to keep the rhythm. ,,You start to miss it. I am lucky that Belgium has the multidisciplines, where I can get back in the groove within an hour. You referee in all disciplines, with world class players at the table. That puts me in the right frame of mind, instantly.''

The World Cup in Hurghada is another beautiful layover. ,,The organization had requested four Belgian referees, and I was one of them. It is another beautiful experience in a nice tournament, where I have also been a participant once.''
At the end of his story, he comes with a confession: ,,I find it increasingly hard to go back to work, after I've been here. It hurts, I miss my friends, my family, my club and my fellow referees.''

,,We live in a 'housing complex' some 250 kilometers from Abu Dabi, where there is nothing but sand and petroleum. There's ten thousand people, 70 % of those from India or the Philippines, Thailand or Pakistan. It is very difficult to establish a form of contact, because of the culture gap. They keep amongst themselves, and are - for instance - not allowed to marry outside their own. Make no mistake, you earn about twice a normal salary there, but don't think lightly about the work. Sometimes, I make twenty-hour days.''

It is one of the resons he has such respect for his wife Patricia. ,,If she would not have my back in all this, it could not be done. She has to put up with it all, her life is in the house only, when I am away to work long hours.''

,,I'd be glad to get it over and done'', says Benny Delvaux. ,,My wife is now also at a point where she has had enough. I hate the thought of having to go back there. It seems a new plant in Canada is in the works. That is something I could see us doing for a few more years. Abu Dabi, that is a book we want to close.''

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