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Marco Zanetti: World Games are our Olympics

Posted by on July 20, 2017

Marco Zanetti: World Games are our Olympics

© Fibis
The Italian champion Marco Zanetti with the president of the federation, Andrea Mancino

WROCLAW - The World Games, a four year event with more than 3000 athletes from 110 countries this year, will be launched with the opening ceremony in Polish Wroclaw today. Marco Zanetti, the Italian winner four years ago, will start next Wednesday in the three cushion tournament with sixteen players from around the world. The 55-year-old player, double three cushion world champion in his long career, is proud to present his country at this mega event. ,,The World Games are for us, the lesser known sports, the Olympic Games.''

Four years ago, Marco Zanetti triumphed in Cali, Colombia, and took the gold medal. It was one of the highlights in his career and an unforgettable experience. ,,I remember the awesome welcome, with a full battery of cameras, the huge Colombian love for our sport and the cordon of police officers who constantly surrounded us to ensure our safety.

Marco Zanetti is the title defender in Wroclav. After the last World Cup in Porto, the Italian star player climbed to the world's top three with Dani Sánchez and Dick Jaspers on the top positions.

The participants and the schedule for the three cushion tournament at the World Games:

First knockout rounds on 26 and 27 July:

Dani Sánchez (Spain) -Dawid Tonojan (Poland)
Hugo Patino (USA) -Javier Palazón (Spain)
Quyet Chien Tran (Vietnam) -Huberney Cataño (Colombia)
Sameh Sidhom (Egypt) -Eric Tellez (Costa Rica)
Marco Zanetti (Italy) -Kostas Kokkoris (Greece)
Sung-Won Choi (Korea) -Pedro Piedrabuena (USA)
Eddy Leppens (Belgium) -Can Capak (Turkey)
Dick Jaspers (Netherlands) -Ryuji Umeda (Japan).

Kozoom reporter Frits Bakker spoke with Marco Zanetti on the eve of the World Games.

Kozoom/Frits Bakker: How important is it for you to be part of the World Games? What has it meant to you in the past four years to be the winner of these Games? 

Marco Zanetti: The World Games are the only tournament where all the billiard games come together under the recognition of the IOC, which makes it unique. Furthermore, it is part of a much larger event, with thousands of athletes from all over the world. The medal list is official, and it's a high honor to represent your own country. On your individual resume, a World Games medal only compares to an Olympic one.

Kozoom/FB: What does it mean for Italian athletes to represent their country at the World Games. How many are there in all disciplines and have they been presented to the national press, like for example in the Netherlands?
MZ: Unfortunately, the World Games are not that well known in Italy, and the media have not given it much attention. Our National Olympic Committee did provide me with official Italian sports attire. This year, for the first time, I represented the Italian billiard players community during the official reception given in Rome, by the president of our Republic. I was the only billiard player there, in the company of Mr. Andrea Mancino, president of the FIBIS (Italian Billiards Federation), who invited me.

Kozoom/FB: What is your best memory of the previous World Games in Cali, except that you won?
MZ: I will never forget the large audience, the great atmosphere and the popularity of 3-cushion billiards in Colombia. It started when I arrived at Cali Airport, where journalists awaited and a TV-team was there for interviews. It ended in just the same way, after the competition. Police officers were present for protection, airport employees asked me for my autograph and took pictures. as a souvenir. I truly felt like the center of attention, and I felt safe thanks to the security measures. Let me tell you a strange anecdote: the audience did not know the rules of snooker, and had no idea that a match had been decided. So there was no response from the crowd, and the players left the arena in total silence!

Kozoom/FB: When do you leave for Wroclaw? Is that with other athletes of the Italian team?
MZ: I will leave by myself, on Monday the 24th of July.

Kozoom/FB: You climbed up to third place on the world rankings after the World Cup in Porto. That means: still at the top of the world.
MZ: Yes, that is an amazing reward for all my efforts. It is also proof that I can practice efficiently.

Kozoom/FB: There is a lot of talk and writing about the Korean and Vietnamese invasion, the hundreds of talents, who work and train very hard. How do you manage to stay on top and to deal with the new generation?
MZ: I still try to improve my understanding of the game, and to get even better technically. I practice by myself, and I repeat difficult positions, that is my personal recipe to get stronger. If you are out of form, you will be punished immediately. These days, you need to be sharp, focussed and calm at all times.

Kozoom/FB: Do you see, like many players and followers, a gloomy, bleak future for European three cushion?
MZ: Sadly, many European countries have a problem with their generational continuity. The billiard clubs, the regional, national and international federations need to change their mentality and be aware of this big task they have. We probably need better connections to schools and other sports associations, where we can show young people what billiards is all about. But on the other hand, Europe still has the best players in the world. Question is, for how long? The future of European 3-cushion has become uncertain. Improving the conditions of our tournaments could be a strong impulse to attract a new generation. I am sure that the UMB can play a pivotal rule in that, and the new board of the CEB will rise to the challenge.

Kozoom/FB: Regarding the World Cups: you were often in the top four the last two years. Three cushion has its periods. These two years were the years of Sánchez, Caudron and Jaspers. How do you see the current status and development of the top five?
MZ: In 3-cushion, the names of the best players didn't change significantly in the last 10-15 years. But a new era could be around the corner, for many reasons. It's impossible to predict who will be in the top, even in the near future, and this makes our sport so interesting.

Kozoom/FB: For a seasoned player such as yourself: is preparing for the World Games just like preparing for any big tournament?
MZ: I prepare for this event like I do for any other. But this time, we will play with balls and cloth we have no previous experience with, which makes everything a bit more uncertain.

Kozoom/FB: How is daily life? The family, the combination of private life/billiards, traveling, the fitness with climbing of the years, the ambition and motivation in your sport?
MZ: A balanced way of living is very important for me. My family enriches my life so much, they are the key to my personal equilibrium. I try to stay in shape, I walk a lot, spend time outdoors, I have a well-organized life and I feel young inside. I consider myself lucky that I can say that. I can practice well, I have my table at home. Travelling is getting a bit harder, and I concentrate mainly on UMB events. I try not to play too many league games, so I can save my energy for the big events, and I hope to continue in that fashion for years to come.

Kozoom/FB: Finally: how do you see the current status of three cushion? Do you see enough progress organizationally? Player organizations are in contact with the federations, the UMB, the CEB. Are you satisfied about the results? And what are your most urgent wishes in our sport?
MZ: Three cushion is more attractive than it has ever been before. In the first nine places of the World Ranking nine different nations are represented. And the fight is getting harder for the strong old generation that dominated the scene in the past decades. We have at the moment eight official World Cup Tournaments per year and my wish would be to reach at least twelve. We still miss World Cup tournaments in Europe and in South America. League competition should stay important for the good players but not for the world best players if the prize money will increase. This should be the next step we expect and strongly hope. Our player association, the MBA is working with the UMB and we know how important it is to speak in the name of the whole 3-cushion players community. We also wish that the professional status will improve, not only for a small number of top players. Farouk Barki has our confidence and we watch the developments in Korea with close interest. Asia and especially Korea can be decisive for the definition of a new era for 3-cushion billiards, we hear a lot about it and we are ready for new challenges. Also the recent election of a new board of the CEB with Diane Wild as President can give us the hope for a general improvement in Europe. Our sport is in need of efficient officials who work together with the same priority: to guarantee decent professional conditions for the best players. This would create the foundation for a new era in the history of 3-cushion and the billiard players community deserve it.

Thanks to Kozoom for giving me the opportunity to talk freely about all that.

Marco Zanetti shakes hands with Sergio Mattarella, president of the Italian republic and Giovanni Malagó, president of the Italian Olympic committee

Two players and former winners of the World Games, Marco Zanetti and Dick Jaspers

During the last World Cup in Porto, Marco Zanetti


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