LONDON, April 14 (Reuters) – Hossein Vafaei chewed on chocolate to try and calm his nerves and steady his hand as he became the first Iranian to qualify for the world snooker championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.
The 27-year-old beat China’s Lei Peifan 10-9 in Wednesday’s qualifying round with a decisive final frame securing his place among the 32 competing in snooker’s biggest event that starts on Saturday.
“I was so nervous today, all of my body was shaking. I didn’t know what to do. I was eating chocolate, a lot of sugar today, but it wasn’t working to be honest,” said the world number 18. “Some days are like that. You forget how to hold the cue.
“I’m sorry I played so bad … but I promise I will play better on the bigger stage at the Crucible, I can’t wait to get there.”
Vafaei had led 4-1 but Lei fought back to 5-5 and the qualifier remained close until the last frame when the Chinese, 61-0 up, was two pots from victory but missed a simple red to a centre pocket.
Vafaei than made a clearance of 54 to secure the win.
“At 8-8 I was behind as well and I cleaned it up,” said Vafaei.
“I hope this will inspire more people back home and make them start playing snooker, and make it as big as I can.”
Australians Neil Robertson (2010), Ireland’s Ken Doherty (1997) and Canada’s Cliff Thorburn (1980) are the only non-British players to have won the world championship in the last 70 years.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)