By Tauhierah Salie
“I would say it’s like the T20 of cricket- its fast, fun, interesting and there’s a lot of luck involved.”
“Most of the times that there are tournaments overseas we end up not going because we can’t afford it. We have so much talent in South Africa that we are not showcasing to the world; it is quite unfortunate.”
– South Africa’s second highest ranking 9-ball pool player, Jamiel Jacobs, feels the cue sport should be invested into.
Hailing from Mitchells Plain, 29-year-old Jamiel Jacobs is working hard to prepare for his first international nine-ball pool tournament set to take place at the Copper Box in London, UK, on the 17th May 2022.
Second only to KZN’s Jason Theron, Jacobs says that South Africa is still an amateur in the sport he has dedicated himself to. Traditional cue games such as pool and snooker found in arcade centres are popular in the country, professionally dubbed English eight and black ball respectively. Jacobs says Chinese and eight- and nine- ball was first introduced around 2018.
Apart from varying rules and point systems, the board size also varies from 7ft (2,134 metres) for eight-ball, 9ft (2,743 metres) for nine-ball and 12ft (3,658 metres) for snooker.
Jacobs said he fell in love during his first game four years ago at the Vaden Billiards Club in Montague Village, currently the only home to nine-ball boards in Cape Town. He is hopeful that the sport will increase in popularity and accessibility in comparison to the traditional cue games.
“I take pool very seriously. Since it was introduced, I fell in love with the game. It’s not so big in South Africa but hopefully we can increase the numbers and follow suit with America and across Europe.”
He says nine- and ten- ball is frequently played abroad, as well as ‘straight pool, bank pool and one pocket”.
Despite travelling expenses putting a dent in his pocket, Jacobs remained determined.
“There’s no funding at the moment so (the) cost of all the trips is out of (each) persons bank account. (This) is quite costly because we have to consider entry fees, travel and accommodation, spending money etc.” elaborates Jacobs.
He said it is unfortunate that funding holds South African players back and is appealing for sponsors to come on board.
“Most of the times that there are tournaments overseas we end up not going because we can’t afford it. We have so much talent in South Africa that we are not showcasing to the world, so it is quite unfortunate,” added Jacobs.
“Hopefully we can get some sponsorships on board as well. People can assist where they can and we can come up with some form of mutual partnership agreement. Because, like I said, it’s quite a popular sport,” he said.
Jacobs spoke to VOC’s Sports Wrap, hot off the heels of the All Africa nine-ball championships in Secunda. Twenty-four men and about six women competed in their respective divisions. He says the accommodation and halaal food options in the area, made it a pleasurable experience.
Jacobs however lost to the eventual champion Aiden Joseph, whom he described as a “very good player.”
Commenting on his shortcomings, he explained that several factors influence a player’s game, including the condition of the table. Damaged or old felt, for example, can cause the balls to go off course. Similarly, inadequate cushioning can reduce the ricochet of the ball and impact the amount of power required to make certain angles work.
“It didn’t go according to plan, unfortunately I fell short at some hurdles. I had a very tough draw- but no excuses involved. Also, the conditions were a bit unfavourable. Hopefully leading up to the next event I will be better prepared.”
He explained that having brand new felt gives the balls more ‘slide’ – and the ‘break’ would scatter the balls further. The ‘break’ itself, he said, is also an important component, which can make or break players. Jacobs said that practicing entails switching focus to learn different techniques like manoeuvring the cue ball, breaks, break and finishes and defense.
“Nine- ball is not only about attacking, but you also have to be very good in your defending game. You may need to snooker the player or put your (competitor) in a position where he cannot attack.”
Jacobs called on public and private investors and donors to sponsor players’ trips to compete internationally, confident that the in-house talent could put south Africa on the map.