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Blomdahl and Zanetti: a view on the future

Posted by on April 5, 2018

Blomdahl and Zanetti: a view on the future

© Kozoom
Marco Zanetti in a preview to the 2018 start: I strongly hope that billiards will stnd in a better place

BOLZANO/BACKNANG - The year of truth in three-cushion billiards has cast its shadow in all ranks of players, organizations and billiard fans. The billiards world is looking forward to the new challenges, the wonderful filled calendar for 2018, the great international tournaments and the spectacular grow of prize money. Raymond Ceulemans, the Belgian legend, the all time champion, can fill a billiard room with the trophies and cups he has won in his glory years. The top players of today will soon start the battle for the big money events and face a golden future. The Ceulemans Cup, the Masters cycle, the huge New York event have been added to the new UMB calendar with the world championships and the World Cups.

Two players with a great palmares, many world titles and World Cup victories through the years, both from the same generation, look forward to the new challenges. The Swede Torbjörn Blomdahl (55) and the Italian Marco Zanetti (55) are on the eve of a historic year in billiards. The Kozoom interview is about new opportunities, the professionalization of three cushion, the TV exposure, the role of the federations and organizers, the rise of the new generation and their own future. ,,This year is the real milestone for a launch in new heights.''

Take a look in your crystal balls, please, Marco Zanetti and Torbjörn Blomdahl.

Frits Bakker/Kozoom: We're less than a month away from the first 2018 World Cup in Antalya. How was your run-up to perhaps the most important year in the history of global billiards? How was the winter recess, was there time for relaxation or holiday?
Marco Zanetti: After many tournaments and long trips in the last months of 2017, I played my last tournament in December at Hurghada. Then I had a 2 months long break before playing the Italian championship for clubs. This has been the one and only competition this year for now.
After Hurghada, I stopped playing for a month and I dedicated my time mostly to my family, resting at home and recharge the batteries. Now I'm practising again every day, here at home.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: After Hurghada, I had time for skiing, holiday with my sons, lots of relaxing and of course practice. Also I took care for some necessary personal matters which I had had to postpone because of the busy year in 2017. About my trainings: I like to play with my son Yannick, he wants to improve, he likes the game more and more. And i like to teach him. I only practice, now and then, in the club of Stuttgart, the oldest club in Germany, I think. I was at the reception for 125-year billiards club. At home, I have no billiard table anymore. So, when I practice, I often go to Korea or Turkey.

Kozoom/FB: The year of truth, in terms of organization, was preceded by a period of negotiations by UMB and Kozoom, amongst others. Wonderful plans were launched and presented, international 3-cushion has never looked in better shape. You are weathered and seasoned professionals: how did you look at this dawn of a new era?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: This is really super for us, having so many tournaments now. Finaly. I'm very grateful for wat Mr. Bark and Kozoom have done, bringing us to a new future. Maybe, it will be even better in the coming years. We need this, like it's gonna be now. Playing in teams is very funny, but three cushion is an individual game. Look at snooker. Have you ever seen snooker on tv by teams?
Marco Zanetti: We can definitely say that three cushion billiards is coming to a different stage and that this year is the real milestone for a launch in new heights. I am very happy of the increasing interest about 3c-billiards and it is wonderful to have next a lot of action and big challenges, in this mature period of my career.

Kozoom/FB: What can you say about the challenge of having a career in sports in your fifties. Are you more motivated and ambitious as you ever were? How long do you think, Blomdahl and Zanetti can stay at the top in this new era? Five more years, ten more years?
Marco Zanetti: When I was young, in my thirties, I was thinking to stop playing billiards by reaching the age around 50. Now, I'm 55 and I realise that my game is better than 5-10 years ago. I feel a lot of fun and gratification. So, I don't pose any personal age limit anymore and I will keep on doing it as long as I will like it. It's a great honour for me to compete at top level at my age, this also helps to keep young. Ceulemans won his last world title at the age of 65, so let me give 10 years more to Torbjorn and me, if Gods will or 'insciallah', as you prefer to say.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: The motivation is the same as always. And for how long? Five more years already looks nice if it succeeds. The competition is very strong.

Kozoom/FB: The competition at the top is very fierce, indeed. What have you planned to do, as compared to five or ten years ago, to stay ahead of the new generation(s)?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: The main thing, to stay on top, is to be in a good condition. I always try to go out for trainings: running, cycling. For now, since a few months, I have problems with my foot, but when I'm in good shape again, I will start my practice.
Marco Zanetti: I permanently try to improve my game and I feel this spirit working in me when I do practise. And I keep at least a decent physical shape.

Kozoom/FB: Top players will of course keep a constant eye on the international calendar, but so far there have been few comments on the changes. How does your life change, as a result of the new and expanded international agenda?

Torbjörn Blomdahl: I stopped playing in the Holland league, in Belgium and France, to take my time. For some years, I do a lot of travelling, as I said, to Asia, Turkey. My life will not change with this new calendar, we love it and we are ready to challenge.
Marco Zanetti: I don't play at all in leagues this year, so I will just focus on the official UMB events. I will have just a few more long trips, but there is absolutely nothing to complain.

Kozoom/FB: There is much optimism all around, there are good prospects. What is your opinion about the new tournaments, the new format, let's say about the Masters series and the Ceulemans Cup?
Marco Zanetti: Everything sounds very interesting and exciting and I think that is worth to try the Masters series in a new format. The Ceulemans Cup will become for carom billiards the same reference as the Mosconi Cup in pool. However, only after the end of the coming season, it will be possible to analyse and comment the new formats.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: The Masters-cycle can be very interesting, we have to wait and see. The format of the Ceulemans Cup, I don't know how it looks like exactly. The run-up looks like the Ryder Cup, that seems very good.

Kozoom/FB: The outside world has no grasp on it yet, and wonders: how much can a top player in top form earn this year, in prize money and premiums? Can you make an educated guess?

Marco Zanetti: Probably the player with the biggest total prize money at the end of the year will be the winner of the McCreery Champion of Champions, because there is the highest single prize to win. I estimate that this player, with a couple of other wins and generally a good season can reach 200.000 euros and perhaps even something more.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I haven't seen the prize money for the Masters yet. But the New York winner will be rewarded by 200.000, exclusive sponsor amounts. And with some more wins, it can be 300.000. That looks great for the players who are invited.

Kozoom/FB: Few billiard players are used to perform under the pressure of big prize money. How do the seasoned pros handle it? Do you have an advantage over the younger players in, for instance, a final with 50.000 euro at stake?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I don't think there will be more pressure, maybe even less. Because also the final losers are payed well. The difference between being young and old in a final? When I was young, I always had the feeling that I was in advantage towards the older players. More pressure? It shouldn't be, but you know, I am used to win. So, it feels strange to lose so many matches.
Marco Zanetti: All players will feel an additional pressure this year for sure. The decisive factor is probably not given by the age, there are other aspects which are more important.

Kozoom/FB: In negotiations, there is the side of the UMB and Kozoom, and there is the side of the players. Is there still a podium for the players to stand together? There is an MBA, a players union. Does it still function, and how important is it today to be united?
Marco Zanetti: The Players association still exist and the board is composed by Gökhan Salman and Tayfun Tasdemir from Turkey, Dick Jaspers, Torbjorn and me. We have a good communication and an excellent atmosphere among us. Also for the UMB it's important to have the player's association as interlocutor instead of asking the opinion of every player one by one. And there is no doubt that the board is working for the player's community. We have excellent relations with the UMB and Kozoom, everything is going the way we wish and we, players, all want the same things: to see 3cushion-billiards growing up.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: We are always speaking about actual things, like now, taking in consideration the new era. We are a strong group, we speak each others during the tournaments, by email or by phone. Marco is in charge to inform all players.

Kozoom/FB: How many players, in your estimation, can live off their sport in this new era? How many true pros are there today, and how many could there be? Ten, twenty now? How far could it grow?
Marco Zanetti: In Europe there are no more then 12-15 players, I don't know how many pro players they have in Korea, Vietnam, Mexico and South America, so it's impossible to give a clear answer. I hope this number will be more in the coming years.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I can't estimate the personal sponsor contracts of players, so it's difficult to make a long shot. I want to be careful, because I have no idea. Maybe 30, as of this year? I don't like to gamble.

Kozoom/FB: Does billiards, in this new configuration, have a chance, or a better chance, to gain Olympic status?
Marco Zanetti: In my view, the new stage of 3c-billiards is not related to gain the Olympic status. This is the core matter of our roof Federation, the WCBS and many other factors are very important. Snooker is split into two federations, their relationship to each other is not always very easy. Pool and Carom are organising their own events in full autonomy from each other. Only once every four years, during the World Games, we have a worldwide organisation of all recognised billiard disciplines in common.Olympic status would definitely change our sport so much that for me this is still the highest challenge where federations have to work on in the future.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I'm not optimistic, when I speak for myself.

Kozoom/FB: What does the billiard sport need, globally and in this crucial stage, to further professionalize and gain structure? What should be done to expand the media attention and use the momentum?
Marco Zanetti: We need successful events and good connections with the media and the sponsors. In Korea, which is our most relevant country now, and in the rest of the world, especially in Europe, as well. And a cooperative spirit among all official bodies, without jealousy and internal competition.
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I am really very bad in organizing the billiard world. What we, as a player group, can do is try to brainstorm some new ideas about rules, match distances or prize money amounts and distribution. And of course support all good initiatives. We have to cooperate closely with UMB and Kozoom

Kozoom/FB: Will the new Blomdahls, Zanetti's, Jaspers's, Caudrons and Merckx's not only come from Asia in the coming years, but also from Europe and South America?
Marco Zanetti: There are so many potential talents all over the world, who can now? Imagine 40 years ago, in the late 70's, if somebody would have foreseen that soon top players from Sweden, Italy, Turkey would come...? And a bit later followed by Korean and Vietnamese...? Would you have believed it?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: I still have the feeling that we can bring a few top players in Europe, but for now it seems, they come from Asia.

Kozoom/FB: Can you name factors that could get in the way of the big plans of the UMB and Kozoom?
Torbjörn Blomdahl: We all know the main goals for global billiards. This is a crucial phase of development in billiards. We can't miss chances now. The most important is that we all join forces with all federations in the world. There are some small conflicts for now, the Korean tournaments for example. I have full confidence in Mr. Farouk Barki and Kozoom that they can solve very soon.
Marco Zanetti: The most important factors will be an extended TV-covering and the cooperation of organisers, national federations, marketing companies and sponsors for a mutual satisfaction. Kozoom and UMB have an immense challenge in front of them to sensibilize all bodies working for the future of 3c-billiards in the same direction with the goal to make the sport bigger. Excellent communication, patience and genial marketing strategies are needed.

Kozoom/FB: What will these new developments do to the level of play? The averages have already gone up so spectacularly in the past few years. Where does it end? What expectations do you have?

Torbjörn Blomdahl: Comparing to all other sports, 3-cushion is not an exception. What we are getting now is a very broad top and I guess this will go on for a while. And some day, we will have our own Ronnie O‘Sullivan, a player who wins what he wants to win and when he wants it. But I think this could take a long time.
Marco Zanetti: Averages of the top players during one full season cannot increase that much anymore, may be one day we will see a winner scoring 3 general average or a sensational game with 10 average. But if 10-15 years ago the mark of 1.400 was good enough to be in the top 20, today this mark is set up higher and probably we will see in the coming years another step in the height, about 1.700-1.800.

Kozoom/FB: Can you name the talents of today, who will take over form Blomdahl, Jaspers, Caudron, Zanetti, Merckx, Kim, Choi in the upcoming ten years?
Marco Zanetti: It is impossible to make forecast in this sense. There are so many strong players in the age between 20 and 55 that makes the competition extremely interesting, not only in terms like Europe against Asia or America but also between the different generations. We will see in the future what will be the real age limit for a top player, when the biological life will reduce his performances without any doubt. We have representatives of 10-12 countries which can reach the top, even excellent players who are now in their 40's can be at the top in 10 years. So, an exhaustive list will be too long!
Torbjörn Blomdahl: In my opinion, Haeng-Jik Kim, the young Cho. About others, it is maybe to early to make a bet.

Kozoom/FB: Final question: look in your crystal ball and tell us where billiards stands in the world of sports, ten years from now?
Marco Zanetti: I strongly hope that billiards will stand in a better place so that the new generation will be attracted and will give continuity in our professional competitions. I think the coming 2-3 years are decisive to better preview the developments. Without forgetting that gaining the Olympic status would also be a very important step for the generations of the future!
Torbjörn Blomdahl: If we keep doubling up the prize money so frequently, we might be a really important sport in 10 years. But I don't have a crystal ball.


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