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Marco Zanetti, phenomenon with special character

Posted by on December 5, 2010

Marco Zanetti, phenomenon with special character

© Guillaume Loiseau /
Marco Zanetti in trouble during the last World Championship in Sluiskil

Two world titles in Three-Cushion, two in Biathlon, ten European titles for teams, in the past years one of the protagonists in the period of the BWA, more than thirty years at the top and still a feared competitor for all players in the top ten of the ranking.

Marco Zanetti (April 10, 1962), living in Bolzano, is a brilliant billiard player, but sometimes also a controversial person. The Italian gentleman often was the initiator for negotiations with federations and organizations, pleaded for better conditions for players, but in some ways there is a bit of criticism for his behaviour inside the billiard room.

He is living with his girlfriend Martina and two and half years young boy Samuel. ,,I have a very happy family’’, he says. But on the other hand, in his sporty environment, there are clashes sometimes with referees, but most of the time with the UMB, remembering more than a year ago the fight with Farouk Barki, the sports director of the UMB, the World Billiard Federation.

That conflict, which escalated after a snappy discussion at the Worldcup tournament in Korea 2009, has led to a severe publishment: 50 penalty points for life on the world ranking. It is the reason Zanetti now has dropped out of the top twelve of the world.

The Italian saved his silence for two years and (in his own words) was never been questioned by officials about the incident in Korea and the penalty he got.

So it’s time for his story now.

Marco Zanetti about billiard, his life at home, his character, about rumors, his disappointment towards other top players, the generational battle and about his punishment. ,,I am a very quite person, in fact, I hate violence and injustice.’’

The story of a phenomenon with a special character.


Frits Bakker: How is life at this moment, Marco, despite some set backs and some headwind in your sport. How do you feel in daily life with your girlfriend and child, playing billiard, having some quality time?

Marco Zanetti: I have a very happy family and enjoy my very first fatherhood, which has come so late. I share my day between practicing and family when I’m at home.’


FB: For so many years you’re on top of the world, but still you’re even passionate and ambitious, may we say so?

MZ: I’m looking for fun when I play billiard. And if I make too many mistakes, the fun is over. That’s why I’m trying to improve constantly and I do it with seriousness and methods. I feel like a pioneer, who want to do research and experiments on the billiard table.’


FB: As with all top players, shape on the table is so elusive, also for you. Two years ago you were a great world champion, you played some marvellous tournaments in the World Cup, always strong in your home arena in Agipi, but then, like so many times, there is the inevitably relapse. Do you have, with all your experience, an explanation for that?

MZ: There are always small details. The ball is round, not the players. And in the match from time to time you can be very unlucky: bad positions, balls to the cushion, misfortune. Each player can become nervous for that and begin to doubt. Sometimes you can be reckless or over trained, the joy of playing is gone. You can quickly lose precision and start playing ’about’. Besides that the competition is very strong today.’


FB: The top ten positions in the ranking sometimes change, but relatively remain intact already for ten years and more, with a few minor exceptions. How do you see the development of other, young players?

MZ: There is a new, young generation, who is very ambitious and self-conscious, but the older players, most between forty and fifty years, are players with class, technique and experience. This generational battle is very interesting and on the long term the younger players will prevail (as we did many years ago). Let’s see how long it will take before in the forefront there will be more young boys than oldies.’


FB: You were, some years ago, as a player with your own strong opinions, one of the initiators for the establishment of a players council, the MBA. Do you still come together sometimes with that board. Many people who are involved with billiard say that they never hear anything about it.

MZ: The players council was founded in Sluiskil in 2007. All that time I thought that the times were ripe to build up a fresh community of interests, with the aim of giving billiard more importance. After a few years I realized that this vision is not supported by my colleagues and that anyone really thinks mainly of his own interests. The results therefore are not very positive. Since my disciplinary affair, in December 2009, I have not used my position as a President of  the players club deliberately, because I didn’t want to put the functionaries under pressure. Thus, the activities of the MBA are set still for some time. I expected that my colleagues had done something for me, I was disappointed they did not. For that I have a bitter taste.

They cannot blame me for that, because I did a lot of good things for billiard, I think, like the rules of the Worldcup tournaments, included wildcards for players outside Europe, the price-money and other things. Sometimes it felt that I was fighting alone against UMB for that.’


FB: Do (top)players support each other when it comes to vision, innovation and solutions of conflicts?

MZ: I think that theoretically top players all want the same thing: the real importance to be seen as a top athlete to earn a good media broadcasting of major tournaments and related to that earning a high prize money. In practice everyone thinks slightly different. There is a great lack of collegiality…’


FB: Concerning yourself, Marco, there was that incident in the Worldcup in Suwon, more than a year ago now, which led to your punishment: a penalty of fifty points on the ranking, which will remain forever. The violation must have been very heavy.

MZ: Before the semi-final against Torbjörn Blomdahl, I complained to the UMB delegate Farouk Barki, that the people from the organization didn’t use a new Simonis product to clean the tables. Then the discussion escalated into other issues, longer topics that I’ve worn for years only in me. I admit that my tone during the debate became higher, but of course that was also a matter of competition stress. But I remained very factual, for sure, and Blomdahl can confirm that I didn’t insult or attack Barki personally. Unfortunately, nobody asked Blomdahl about that. I want to emphasize that all what happened was before the practicing and not during the match in the presence of television images, such as the UMB has written.


FB: Did you deserve a punishment, in your own opinion, for what happened there?

MZ: Even though I really would have done something bad, which was not true, one should also consider other values. I’ve been playing for thirty years at the highest level, I won the World championships. I am the oldest among the top players, have many fans around the world. In football only with worse fouls will be showed the red card. This penalty is completely unfair and everyone is talking about it, but only behind the scenes. A written warning would have been hard enough for me. This affair also shows that in disciplinary cases there is no democracy in the statutes of the UMB. Criminal proceedings, decision and appeal, everything passes only by the UMB, of course that’s wrong. But no federation complains and global indifference prevales.


FB: Would you have been punished by the UMB if you had apologized to Farouk Barki. And is it true that you refused it?

MZ: The fact is that I went on the same evening, after the banquet, to Farouk Barki and shaked hands with him, so for me the incident was forgotten. Nobody told me that I had to apologize to Barki. After the disciplinary accusation I spontaneously decided to apologize in writing to the Korean Association and the Asian Confederation because they had complained in a letter to the UMB for my behaviour. About it, I never got a response.


FB: How can we, in all realism, describe Marco Zanetti, without doing violence to the truth: must we say as a player, who in his ambition, pressure to win and in high concentrations, sometimes is going beyond borders?

MZ: I am an older player with a lot of idealism and very high respect for billiard sport. Unfortunately, I’ve seen very often that the athletes are under valued or suppressed. My case is just a next proof. It simply needs quality work to get up our sport. And after thirty years in billiard, I’m really disappointed about it. I carry my dream in me for over thirty years, but the huge potential of three-cushion only remains a dream, never a basis for a historical development. Sometimes we can play nice and very good tournaments, but it’s all in the hands of local organizers. It needs a good, strong management worldwide. The technical level of the top players and the fierce competition makes the sport more attractive, it’s quite clear. I would be willing to do anything new to create better circumstances but the community wants it only on paper and not in deed. Players, I think, must have an important responsibility. On and around the billiard table all the players are hundred percent professionals (tough competitions, sports doping, behaviour, public relations etc), on the other hand, in our common interests, it is not the same tendency. If this continues, we’ll play again in the future for a trophy as the winner prize. Personally, I suffer very much for that and sometimes a sign of this dissatisfaction is coming out on certain occasions. To make just a few examples. Sometimes I can be disturbed by un adapted music during a match (why do we have to play with music?). Or a wrong decision of a referee and not well maintained play materials. I’m certainly a bit to sensitive in this regard and would rather not be, but actually it affects me so much in my game, my concentration is disturbed.


FB: We must, nevertheless, conclude that a sentence for life is very hard.

MS: This penalty does not correspond to democratic principles at all, I only know that is added a life sentence or restriction to rare and very serious cases as murder. Inside the billiard world, honesty is apparently not so much appreciated, but more seen as a threat. I pay a hard price. The deduction in the world ranking is not the hardest, there are other things that are even harder. I am the oldest player on the top and was treated like a criminal without anyone was upset for it. What conclusions should I draw? How can you feel well in such a society?


Marco Zanetti has spoken, the battle is not over yet, if nobody takes the initiative for a ceasefire. The former world champion and the UMB seem to be no longer on speaking terms. That’s a bitter conclusion, more than one year after the affair.

Would not it be gorgeous that both parties would go around the table and attempt to make an end to this controversy? The billiard sport and all its followers would be the great winner.



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My Comments

Sad reading I think, rediculous punishment against one of the top player. You have to remember we're all different people, with different backgrounds and so on. There is no such "law" to tell anyone how to respond in such matters. And all "great" people is a bit controversial, and been so for as long as mankind existed. My vote for Marco Zanetti!
Sincer: Hakan Holmstrom in Sweden

Message 1/12 - Publish at December 2, 2010 10:19 PM

Do not punish Marco...
Hands off from Marco !... Mr. Zanetti could never make a penalty equal to his panishement..
Do not exempt from us hiw precious presence.I billiard raw could never be as before without Marco playing in it. Please forgive his penalty ,if any..
Michael Cacoulidis

Message 2/12 - Publish at December 3, 2010 1:04 PM

Unfair for Marco i think......Stop the 50 points penalty!!

Message 3/12 - Publish at December 3, 2010 6:18 PM

Who on earth is Barki ?
I don't know who this Mr. Barki is, I am sure very few do, but certainly everybody knows Mr. Zanetti, his career and his character. Since when such people decide about the career of champions ? Or is he willing to take his place now to amuse us with his talent ? I think it's time to send Mr. President home for a nice rest and Mr. Zanetti back to the top of the billiard tournaments where he belongs.

Message 4/12 - Publish at December 5, 2010 12:57 AM

Sameh Kamal
Sameh Kamal
hey guys,did you read what Zanetti said about what he did???
i think everyone should read carefully before posting comments against decisions made by what Zanetti said about what he did,i quote "After the disciplinary accusation I spontaneously decided to apologize in writing to the Korean Association and the Asian Confederation because they had complained in a letter to the UMB for my behaviour."
if the Korean Association and the Asian Confederation wrote a letter to UMB complaining from what Zanetti did,then he did something wrong and logically UMB should react based on this complain.

Message 5/12 - Publish at December 5, 2010 9:23 AM

Is there any sport in the world (if we want to think of billiards highly and consider it a sport) that a champion with a 30-year-history in it, would be punished for life for expressing his opinion, even in an impolite way ?
Imagine what should happen in football when footballers swear at the referee. Be executed perhaps ?
Or probably have a leg cut off ? If this practise is allowed then we might as well appoint an emperor
to be the head in all sports and decide regardless sentiment or reason but only to set an example for anyone who dares raise his voice.
I would really like to see how the other champions will react, because they must remember they might find themselves soon in Mr. Zanetti's shoes and noone will speak for the either.

Message 6/12 - Publish at December 5, 2010 12:45 PM

Who is being penalized really?
I thought the 50 point deduction was only for a year. For LIFE? That's actually punishing 3 cushion billiards itself. Having Zanetti in the preliminaries will lower the quality of the final tournament and jepardize the legitimacy of world ranking.
It is also unfair to a seeded player to draw Zanetti as the opponent in the first round and it is definitely unfair to the audience that they have to watch one top player or another being eliminated in the beginning of the finals.
I as a long time billiard lover would expect Mr Barki himself to do something about this. He must care about the game as much as the people on this forum. What ever the reason may have been, I'm sure Mr Zanetti has paid for his actions by loosing his spotless record and a year of lowered ranking, tougher games and less prize money that came with it.

Message 7/12 - Publish at December 5, 2010 5:39 PM

Afflict damage to the billiardsports by UMB
All People has to do with Billiards - players, fans and officials - have to vote for Marco, please! Some People of the Billiards-Community who knows Marco, knows that all what Marco told in the interview corresponds the trueness.
First of all the Top-players should do everything, that Marco get the 50 Points back, he won this point as a fair sportsman and a funktionary snatched him the 50 points, how unfair.
The Top-players may not suffer, that the officials decide about the players how dictators. Who is the next? Please help Marco in your own interest and in the interest of the Billardsport, tell the officials of UMB and CEB that you dont like this procedure.
I hope that Marco get his points back as soon as possible - and I think most of Billiard-Fans think equally.

Message 8/12 - Publish at December 7, 2010 9:19 AM

What the hell are you doing?!!!
That is not fair.. How could you do this with Marco, Did he kill Farouk Barki?!!! it is just a discussion!!!
What the hell are you doing with a living legend?!!!!

Message 9/12 - Publish at December 9, 2010 11:19 PM

What on Earth?
This is simply ridiculous and the intel is to low to make it legit...
Withdraw the punishment or make everything public and let people decide.
Mr. Barki is a well appreciated person in the Billiards world... but he is not a player and nobody would really miss him if he went away, but Marco is a legend of the game.

Maybe mr. Zanetti was wrong but as I said the info is too low for the people to decide.

Message 10/12 - Publish at December 11, 2010 3:18 PM

Support for Marco
More fans should step up and voice their support what is right. A "life sentence" to a World Champion for a single outburst sounds to be very unreasonable. I hope this does not truly stick.
Marco, the fans love you and we hope to see the right thing done.

Message 11/12 - Publish at January 5, 2011 4:36 AM

one more
It has now come clear to me. A personal vendetta and nothing else! redicolus! fix this nonsense and the billiard will heal and grow.

Message 12/12 - Publish at January 5, 2011 11:08 AM

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