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Kurt Ceulemans: billiards should attract millions of viewers

Posted by on October 20, 2011

Kurt Ceulemans: billiards should attract millions of viewers

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Kurt Ceulemans, top player, business man and co-commentator.

LIER - Billiard player on a high level, manager of a wonderful billiard palace on the market of Lier, a strong personal vision for the sport in which his father has become a legend and co-commentator on television. The nearly 49-year-old Kurt Ceulemans, son of Raymond and Angèle Ceulemans, one of four children in the family, born in Lier and grew up in Grobbendonk, was'nt really destined to handle the cue in his later life. He seemed to be a talented basketball player in his youth, but had to stop after a persistent injury.

Kurt Ceulemans then switched to the sport in which his illustrious father had started his unsurpassed career in the younger years of his children. Kurt: ,,When you're born with the name of Ceulemans, on one hand it gives you some respect, on the other, opponents always will try to be on their very best to beat a 'Ceulemans'. So, sportively, certainly it is'nt a benefit, socially for sure.''

Kurt Ceulemans finds himself in an excellent already form for some weeks, what he has demonstrated with glorious victories against Eddy Merckx, Eddy Leppens and Frans van Kuyk in the past two weeks. But he is more than just a highly rated player in the Belgian, Dutch and French three-cushion leagues.

Next year he will be married with Ann for 25 years, together they have one son, Tom (22) and a daughter, Lynn (20). He is an independent manager in the catering business with the Mister 100 in Lier as most famous tavern, a billiard cafe with eight pool tables, seven snookers and seven billiard tables.

Furthermore, Kurt Ceulemans uses his technical knowledge of the game and the ability to explain things to the audience as co-commentator for television broadcasts of major championships and tournaments.

Until his 11th year he lived with his parents, his older brother Koen and younger sisters Ingrid and Ann in Grobbendonk in De Kempen, then the family moved to Mechelen. ,,I played basketball intensely in my young years and was on my eighteenth year playing in the league for Racing Mechelen, with that team we won several titles.''

Frits Bakker: Who is Kurt Ceulemans now in real life, can you tell us something about your character?

Kurt Ceulemans: ,,I have to say that I'm disappointed in people for the last few years, that's the reason I trust no one and that's why I am quite flammable in daily life. Injustice is my greatest dismay, something I totally can not stand. What the family traits are concerned, we try at least to take our holiday together once in a year.''

FB: The form at the billiard tabel is impressive at the moment, with wins against Eddy Merckx, Eddy Leppens and Frans van Kuyk. You beat Merckx even on the day after he has established a fantastic world. Do you feel for yourself playing better than ever?
KC: ,,First of all I want to emphasize how much respect I have for Eddy Merckx. And not just as a billiard player, also as a person. Humor is a form of intelligence, in case of Eddy it is his trademark. I've got the pleasure to know him better, because we have played together in the Dutch league for several years. Eddy was not in a brilliant form currently, that's very controversial with his performance in Germany. It will give him more than ever an ambiguous feeling. If we summarize our match together, I didn't win against Eddy, but he lost against me. In normal circumstances he blows me off the table, I'm really happy that so many of his opponents have experienced.''

FB: How was the ambiance, meeting Merckx at the billiard table one day after his fabulous performance?
KC: ,,Knowing Eddy, he would have done nothing better than play his match the day after without to much fuss. But of course, the organization in Vlaardingen gave him the honour and the flowers he deserved for his world record. Eddy appreciated the gesture, but it did put some extra pressure on the match against me.''

FB: What does billiards mean to you in your life so far?
KC: ,,Billiards is just an outlet for me, an escape from the daily work in the billiard business in Lier. But for sure, it will always be a part of my life.''

FB: What was the role of your father in building up a career at the billiard for you? Did he introduce you, Koen and later on Peter and Bart in the mysteries of billiards?
KC: ,,Regarding to Koen and me: my father obviously had too little time for us in his glory years, because most of the time he was on the road and not at home for playing billiards. But we were lucky to watch the top players when the were here. So 'steal with our eyes' was an almost unconscious and not paying school. Later, my father got some more time for Peter and Bart to teach them his knowledge. And we may say that the boys are well on their way to bring it in practice. The will be stronger every year, I think. They're searching for the perfect base, the technology, the willpower and the intense training to ensure a balanced result.''

FB: You have a nice job as co-commentator for television for some events. Billiard fans like it very much because of your proffesional vison. How important you think it is, to add an expert to the usual commentator?
KC: ,,After the years with the velvet voice of Karel Mommens, there had no longer a commentator who knew much about billiard sport. For that reason they started looking for a co-commentator besides the professional. And I was contacted. What I think is important during the life broadcast, is to take over what's in the mind of a player when he's looking for solutions at the table. Then you can attract the audience with your comment and ultimately the numbers of viewers will be higher. Arouse interest and higher ratings, it's the famous snowball effect.''

FB: How much attention does television pay to billiards in Belgium?
KC: ,,Compared to the past, there is very little interest from the media. Fortunately, a few years ago EXQI has shown a big interest for billiards, now people can see the Belgian championship, the Belgian cupfinal and the Superprestige. Furthermore, they try to do as much as possible with the international events.''

FB: And the newspapers in Belgium, do they write a lot about billiards?
KC: ,,We just have one national newspaper which publishes almost everything about billiards.''

FB: What has gone wrong in the past when we lost the big interest of the media?
KC: ,,Billiards is really an excellent sport for television. We see it in snooker, where theye have millions of viewers during the great tournaments. We really can get those scores for billiard sport too, I'm sure. But unfortunately we lost some important billiard-loving media leaders, who used to put the billiard events on the agenda. Television costs a lot of money in these days, that brings us seamlessly to the phenomenon of sponsorship. A sponsor will invest to create long-term returns. And that is lacking in the structure of billiards these days. At the moment sponsors are just supporters of our sport, who just because of their love for the sport. There is no commercial aspect for them, unluckily. The part of their investment is limited, so that the interes of television and the great international charisma will only remain a dream.''

FB: How can we
interest sponsors again to invest in our sport?
KC: ,,A big task is reserved for the organizers and federations, who have to take care in various ways that the interest in our sport will come back. First of all, big commercial sponsors can only been interested, if the organization can ensure them a return for their investment. There are some important aspects, which can provide an advance and spark the interest of the sponsors. We must attract a bigger audience by creating a kind of carnival during the events. Take, for example, the major tennis tournaments with their merchandising and gambling and with a main role to play in terms of commercial value. Live performances by famous and lesser known artists, for instance, like in football, will interest people much more than it does now in billiards. It should be more easy to have a beer and a hot dog. Top tournaments are broken down now by the threshold of fancy hotels and expensive food and drinks.''

,,We have to create more entertainment, promotional equipment, snacks and drinks for reasonable prices. Furthermore, a global legal gambling system has to be scattered, to interest people from outside the billiard-loving world. Maybe we can start brainstorming about a uniform charisma for all major tournaments in the world, like in motorsport. With an international protocol. An extra dimension to potential sponsors.''

FB: How about your own ambitions, after the great performances of last weeks with wins against top players.

KC: ,,I have a pretty good feeling, of course, winning at the time a match against a top player. But as long I am an independent manager in my businesses, billiard is just an important form of relaxation. The youth players have to show their ambitions and have to pull their ambitions up to the dazzling achievements and developments of recent weeks. Before, I would be more excited, but now I've learned to relativize. We must not forget that sporting performance is affected by what takes place in your daily life.''

FB: What do you think about the development of the long runs, which were made in the past two weeks. Do you have an explaniation for it?
KC: ,,Can you say that it is a coincidence that strong performances are generally followed by even stronger? Well no, because top players pull themselves up to others, that's why we see more high runs and high averages. You may say that I'm crazy, but I am increasingly convinced that anyone will ever make 50 points in one inning. What are they talking about after a super run? The ball that they have missed at the end. If you had made that point, who knows how big the run would have been... Besides, it is not so long ago that we played 1.000 average. Meanwhile, we are over 2.000 and almost at 2.500. But it does not stop, because what's the difference between 2.500 and 3.000? Only a few innings in a match of 50 points. Believe me, we have not seen it all. Records are made to be broken.''

FB: The Belgians had the best players in the world for many years, see your father Raymond, Ludo Dielis, Rene Vingerhoedt, Frédéric Caudron, Eddy Merckx and all those others. Will they be surpassed by the Koreans in the upcoming years?
KC: ,,The Yellow Danger ... Meanwhile, we all realize that they are making a serious advance and are not to be stopped anymore. But obviously, our current top must not be afraid for this new phenomenon in three cushion. We should not forget that in Europe young players make a big progression as well. We may expect big fights for the future.''



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My Comments

Marketing, renewal, interesting players and more exciting dress ..
Yes it should, but I think that the sport of billiards (carom) is too bad to market themselves and so are the players too boring. The same of their attire. Women and men are virtually identical. There is a little more style and colorful attire in pool and the pool players.

If one takes the biggest newspapers in Denmark - and we have after all Dion Nelin, Tonny Carlsen and Jacob Haack-Sorensen - so writes the newspapers maybe 10 lines per year and of television time, we are very lucky if you can see a half hours on a yearly basis.
The other day, Lars Duncker (national team player in 3-cushion) and together with a dart woman, got approx. 7 minutes in a television program where they were met by proram leader with beer and leather jackets. Outrageous and not conducive for billiard sport in Denmark, which currently only has approx. 7500 players in Denmark. And the number contain pensioners and players who do not actively participate in tournaments. And the number is still going in the wrong direction ...

Message 1/1 - Publish at January 24, 2012 10:12 PM

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