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Europeans have missed the boat in the World Cups

Posted by on October 27, 2016

Europeans have missed the boat in the World Cups

© Kozoom/Korea
Kurt Ceulemans, presentator at the World Cup in La Baule: ten, twenty years at most, then we are done in the worst scenario

LA BAULE - Look at the arena of the La Baule World Cup, today on the final day of the qualifications... and you see that the Koreans and the Vietnamese have the strength in numbers. The Kim's play other Kim's, the Tran's play the Ma's, the Heo's take on the Choi's. The French contingent is reduced to their wonderful referee corps, the Europeans are mainly represented by Spanish or Turkish players. Upstairs in the bar area, overlooking the arena, the spoken languages are Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese and there is a single Spaniard, Turk or Belgian present. The last qualification started today with 36 players of whom only 15 are Europeans. We all remember the better times. ,,It's not that we are in danger of losing the plot, we've already lost it.'', says Belgian Kurt Ceulemans, presentator for the La Baule World Cup and the World championship in Bordeaux, a month from now and even better known as the son of the phenom Raymond Ceulemans. ,,And it's not just inside the arena that we meet all these Asians, it's also behind the scenes. We have to learn Korean, in order to speak about billiards.''

Torbjörn Blomdahl, the current world champion, approaches it from a different angle. ,,The Dutch, Belgians, Germans and other Europeans have team billiard leagues. The sponsors spend their money on teams, not on individual players. That is a missed opportunity for players to use sponsorship money for trips to World Cups. The Koreans, Turks and Vietnamese don't have leagues. They can only play at a high level and make some money in World Cups. If they do not go, they are not playing billiards.''

The future looks gloomy for the Europeans, says Kurt Ceulemans. However it's actually not that bad. Today belongs to the Koreans and the Vietnamese, tomorrow things will get back to normal. The world's best will enter the tournament (Caudron, Blomdahl, Merckx, Jaspers, Bury) and Europe will be a big player again. How long will that last? Kurt Ceulemans: ,,Ten, twenty years at most, and then we are done, in a worst case scenario.'' Torbjörn Blomdahl: ,,I don't look that far into the future, and I like to look at it more from a global perspective. Billiards is not in bad shape, if you look at it like that.''

The qualifications in World Cups, such as this one in La Baule, paint a darker picture, because it's mostly the Koreans and the Vietnamese who are willing to travel and invest money to play in World Cups. Kurt Ceulemans: ,,Most Europeans will argue: I am not going to pay a thousand Euro to travel to a World Cup and be kicked out after a single day. You travel to the other side of the world, to play and maybe lose two matches in eight innings.'' That's why players like Martin Horn, Jef Philipoom, Dave Christiani, Jérôme Barbeillon, Michael Nilsson, Tonny Carlsen, Glenn Hoffman, Raimond Burgman, Frans van Kuyk, Dion Nelin, Peter Ceulemans, Jean van Erp, Jose Maria Mas, Brian Knudsen, Francis Forton and many others are not (or no more) interested in playing World Cups.

The Turks, fortunately, still have the courage to do it, and the Spanish, as well as a few individuals like Eddy Leppens, Christian Rudolph, Jean Paul de Bruijn, Therese Klompenhouwer, Dustin Jäschke and a handful of idealistic billiard tourists. They are becoming a dying breed in Europe. ,,We have missed the boat of professionalizing, and now we are paying the price'', says Kurt explaining the decline. ,,The Koreans and Vietnamese get funded by their federation, or they have corporate sponsors'', he adds.

,,Billiards is one of the more important sports in those countries. Their approach to the business side of it is much better than ours has been. We've had the same luxuries in Belgium and the Netherlands for years, but we have not capitalized on it. The federations, especially the one in Belgium, have profited in those years but not looked after their players. Billiards has not made it as a professional sport. Sponsors were not found, audiences stayed home and the players remained amateurs. Look around you in the arena: Caudron, Merckx, Zanetti, Leppens and other European players dressed in Kimchi coats. They have found sponsors overseas.''

Torbjörn Blomdahl: Billiards is an individual sport, nota a team sport like soccer or basketbal

Torbjörn Blomdahl: ,,I keep saying billiards is an individual sport, not a team sport like soccer, volleyball or basketball. Tennis and chess are not played in teams, right? In the European countries, the leagues have become important. We can make some money there, but these sponsors could also have taken players under their wing and sent them to World Cups and other international events.'' That is an important factor, and it has its effect on the education of young players. The development of European talent has been stagnant for years. Two, three good new players from Spain, France or Turkey, that's what we have for now. Kurt Ceulemans: ,,They will face a hundred new talents from Korea, so the Asian dominance is only going to get stronger.''

Young Koreans look at the development of their sport, and they see a future. Myung Woo Cho, the eighteen year old prodigy, makes no secret of the fact that he practices eight or ten hours a day. ,,I have great admiration for the few lone wolves who still take their chances on that battlefield" says Ceulemans, whose eyes see all that goes on during the La Baule World Cupt. ,,Jérémy Bury is amazing, look at what he has done. First he wins the tournament inNew York, and then he wins in the belly of the beast, in Seoul. That is something special, you need character to do that. Unfortunately, there are not many like him. Therese Klompenhouwer also performed well here. Two matches, 1.300, she did well.''

And still, says Kurt Ceulemans, it will be Frédéric Caudron on top of the rostrum on Sunday, or Dick Jaspers, or Eddy Merckx or Torbjörn Blomdahl. ,,We think that is normal, but it no longer is. We must be happy to have these few players who are able to beat the Koreans, and that they can hold on for a few more years. But still we have to say that we can see it every day again: at the international, World Cup level, we have missed the boat.''

Four Korean World Cup toppers: Myung Woo Cho, Sung-Won Choi, Jung Han Heo and Choong Bok Lee

The Vietnamese star players Anh Vu Duong, Quyet Chien Tran, Xuan Cuong Ma and Quoc Nguyen Nguyen

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My Comments

Does it really matters?
the sport increases its value every day, when thousands of new players appear in a globalised world. The goal for anyone who loves the game, in my opininion, must be the day that billiards become an Olympic sport. In these countries ( Korea and Vietnam ) the sport is top rated. Unfortunately not in Europe, yet.

Message 1/4 - Publish at October 27, 2016 7:04 PM

World Cup Format must change -2
Dominance of Asians in the World Cups is a truth. But it is better to compliment and thank to those people because they have huge contribution to the value of 3C billiard.
As stated in the article, Europe also has very good players but they do not atted to World Cups. Is it because they have domestic leauges? Maybe. It costs a lot? Maybe but probably on the average Europeans have the highest economical power to self finance. But rather than local leauges and cost, the main reason is WCup format which is also stated in the article.
At this point, I would like to post again one of my previous comments.
Here it is:

World Cup Format must change
We all love 3c billiard.
We all love to watch these master players.
These excellent players, no doubth, love to play in international arena against other talents of the World in front of an international audiance.
It is the beauty of this sport to witness outstanding averages, unusual runs of 17s, 19s, 22s or more.
But what about the looser with 2+ averages.
After having been travelled 10 thousand kilometers, play a match with excellent 2,7 average; loose in the first appearance and go back home. In less than 2 hours, show is over. Nooooo!
I would like to watch him in another match at least.
Whatever format is posibble, double elimination, some group stages, etc., don't send them back with one loss. Pls add one more day to these tournament, add a few more tables, do whatever is doable but don't send them home with one loss.
Whoever shares the idea, or having something to say pls respond.
Mehmet Boncu

Message 2/4 - Publish at October 27, 2016 9:16 PM

2.7 avg. in Qualifier and loose, NO WAY!
If a player averages almost over 2.5 in the qualifying rounds, 98% of the time that player will WIN that group!

These are NOW major tournaments throughout the year, you have to bring your A+ game if you expect to compete in the final 4!

Certainty, Asian players just by the pure volume of players enlisted, will go deep! Not alone having MANY players that average over 1.7! That is a staggering statistic, but, because of the seeding of the top 12 or so players on Fridays, the pressure is REALLY on them! They have not had the table time that the qualifiers have had, and there are some VERY good 3rd day players!

With the old formats, you would NOT see the quantity and quality of players we have today! Nowadays, it's possible that a group of 20-30 players are capable of winning one of these events!

I'd played during a time in my prime, when the High avg to win a tournament was, 1,25! And not too much seeding. I remember my mentor, telling me over 50 years ago! "You don't always have to play your best to win! But, you do have to play your smartest!" Anyone that figures how to win their match, without playing their best, is a strategically WINNING player!

Bill Smith "Mr3Cushion"

Message 3/4 - Publish at October 28, 2016 4:30 AM - Edited at October 28, 2016 4:48 AM

That's right!!!
That's right!!! Old Ernie had it right...

André Deffense

Publish at October 28, 2016 5:09 AM

Take a look at the stands: nobody there. Not only does that predict the future of the sport, it predicts the chances of 3-c billiards in the Olympics.....none.

Message 4/4 - Publish at October 28, 2016 6:52 AM

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