Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon

Thai Snooker: IBSF World Under-21 Championships, Montreal, 13-23 July

Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon

The eyes of the snooker world may well be firmly on Bangkok this week for the World Cup, but Thai fans will also be following the fortunes of the next generation at the IBSF World Under-21 Championships in Montreal, Canada, in the eternal hope of unearthing the next James Wattana.  (For details, click here)

Thailand currently stands proudly in first place on the IBSF’s ranking list of snooker playing nations thanks to consistently strong performances in all categories, and they have every chance of adding another trophy in Canada after the final on 23rd July. Three young players make up the Thai delegation – Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon (Man), Noppon Saengkham (Moo), and Akani Songsermsawat (Sunny) – and while two of the trio might be well known to many fans, the third name on the list may be less familiar.

Noppon Saengkham

Thanawat, now 17, already has a year of main tour professional snooker under his belt, and although he failed to keep his place, he did show great promise in reaching the venue stages in Germany and becoming the youngest ever player to compile a 147 in professional competition. He will certainly be among the favourites for the title and a swift return to the main tour. Noppon, who will celebrate his 19th birthday in Canada, also has a year’s main tour experience, having earned his place by winning the World Under-21 title two years ago in Iran. His professional results may have been disappointing, but he should still be among the contenders in Montreal.

Akani, at 15, is the youngest of the three, and he agreed to share his thoughts with PSB after a Saturday afternoon practice session. It was a practice session which was cut a little shorter than usual because he was due to meet the other players at Suvarnabhumi Airport at midnight, ready to board the Qatar Airways flight to Doha and then the long, long leg on to Montreal. No shortage of dedication though as he still put in a solid five hours despite the building excitement about his first overseas trip. As for his chances when he gets to Canada – his recent form has been sound, winning the Thai Under-21 title, and then reaching the last four of the Thai Six Red Championships with wins over Atthasit Mahitti and Phaitoon Phonbun before losing out to James Wattana. This season is also his first on the Thailand Professional Circuit, on which he is the youngest participant, and he has already risen to number 42 in the rankings.

Akani Songsermsawat

A fifteen year old might normally be thought to be lacking experience, but Thailand’s administrators had the foresight to give him some early exposure on the senior international stage when the country hosted the 2007 IBSF World Championships. With eleven places going to Thai players, one spot was handed to the then twelve year-old Akani, who performed solidly to finish several spots above the bottom of his qualifying group. Bolstered by that promising debut, he then earned an invitation to Thailand’s inaugural international six-red event a year later, where he beat Matthew Selt and came within a whisker of upsetting eventual champion Ricky Walden.

However, in spite of all his undoubted potential, Akani explained that he thought the standard required to actually win the title in Montreal will be something close to main tour level, and he felt that at present his game is still developing so he would still be the underdog if he reaches the knockout stages. He said it was difficult to pinpoint any particular strengths in his snooker at the moment, describing his game as being in a bit of a “Duck Situation.”  A duck can fly, though not particularly well. A duck can swim, but again it’s not really a strong point. A duck can sing, but nobody wants to listen. I would be inclined to agree with him; it seems that a duck would have a pretty solid all-round game, which Akani certainly does, while admitting that some refinement is still needed. He knocked in a bewildering 102 clearance during the course of this chat in which he rarely looked in full control until the last four colours and yet at the same time never looked like missing at any stage either. Technically he is very solid and methodical, but the quality he possesses that might finally be the most important is his patience and match temperament. When you look at him in the middle of a match, it is impossible to tell from his general demeanour if his winning or losing. He is equally happy to attack or defend, and never have I seen him at all flustered or rushed into unwise shot selections.

 Group G
Rhys Clark (SCO)
Akani Songsermsawat (THA)
Mohamed Hamdy (EGY)
Jurian Heusdens (BEL)
Bogdan Cozmaciuc (ROM)
Kurt Brown (AUS)
Ehsan Heydarinezhad (IRN)

I asked about the group draw, and Akani admitted he knew very little about any of his opponents, but the Scottish flag had caught his eye. Although it would be dangerous to underestimate any of the players based on their nationality, he expected the players from the UK and China would always be particularly strong. Should he progress to the knockout rounds, he reckoned that the players who had already played on the main tour, like the Chinese pair Anda Zhang and Li Hang, the Irishman Vincent Muldoon, or indeed his own two compatriots would be the toughest to be drawn against. Obviously Akani will be trying to go as far in the tournament as he can, but he clearly has a realistic view of the challenge that lies ahead.

Akani Songsermsawat

When he returns from Canada, his immediate future is unclear. He has been home-schooled for several years, which allows for five or six hours of daily snooker practice, fitted in around his studies and helping with his father’s cake business (Mr Songsermsawat makes exceedingly good cakes), but there remains the need to continue to develop his game to a higher level, which will require more practice with better players. He may well start playing at the National Academy, which has recently produced the likes of Thanawat and Noppon to follow in the footsteps of Thepchaiya and Passakorn. Their government supported program allows young players to receive a basic income while they spend their days practicing under the guidance of the coaching staff. Academy players are then first in line for selection for international competition and the chance to earn a main tour place. While Akani might not quite be ready for the professional game just yet, it could well turn out that instead of discovering Thailand’s next James Wattana, in a couple of years we may be watching the next Mark Williams.


  • T.Travis

    Under 21s World Snooker in Montreal Canada ( Should be Live Scores with Canada Snooker ) (will post link Later if required )

    Nick Jennings ***********
    Mitchell Travis ***********
    Sam Harvey ( Possible )
    Callum Downing ***********
    Three of the above players are to represent England in Canada in the World under 21s Snooker on the 12th July to the 23th July 2011.
    They are expected to pay there own Air fares, Hotel Bills and any other expenses.
    Why is there no support for these players. And why does Joe Snooker out there Know nothing about it.
    Please pass this on.
    The advent Venue in Canada is The Sheraton Montreal Airport Hotel.
    I look forward to your reply.

  • Graeme

    Any links or info would be welcome Mr Travis. Are you related to Mitchell by any chance?

    I do know the Thai players get full support from their association – they find it hard to understand that England, for all its snookering strength, doesn’t really view the sport as a team or national thing, and that the UK players are basically on their own from starting out until they turn pro.

    Seems quite a few countries are under-represented in this one, yet surprise packages like Romania and France are fully involved.

  • T.Travis

    Re: Canadian Championships 2011
    by t.travis » 19 Jun 2011, 20:45

    My name is Terence Travis I am trying to acquire Funding for the junior under 21s Snooker players representing England in Canada..

    The Players are invited to play in the Regional Tour to progress to the Regional Junior Premiere Tour.
    If reaching the top four after these advents they then can represent England in the Europeans and England in the World under 21s.
    As you can see they are not chosen and get to represent England by there ability.
    Did you know that four players have just representing England in the under 21s Snooker in Malta from 28th of March to 7th of April 2011.
    They had to pay there own Air Fares, Transfers and Hotel Bill.
    They lived on cereals bought from a local Supermarket because they could not afford eat in their Hotel.
    The other seven countries were sponsored.
    Nick Jennings
    Mitchell Travis
    Sam Harvey
    Callum Downing
    Three of the above players are to represent England in Canada in the World under 21s Snooker on the 12th July to the 23th July 2011.
    They are expected to pay there own Air fares, Hotel Bills and any other expenses.
    o Why is there no support for these players. And why does Joe Snooker out there Know nothing about it.
    Please pass this on.
    o The advent Venue in Canada is The Sheraton Montreal Airport Hotel.
    o I look forward to your reply.
    o T.Travis Further comments to follow

  • T.Travis

    More info:
    snooker island. (follow Theads.)
    I would expect France to be supported IBSF President being
    Pascal Guillaume
    and Indian Capt. P.V.K. Mohan
    being Vice President (read on the forum Four players from India supported).
    I do not blame the above but wish they could accert pressure to
    Sport England and the DCMS Governing body and all the other participating
    Countries not supporting there players so as to leave a level playing field. Players without support are under much more financial pressure and this must affect there game.
    I have had good responce From The Rt Hon Nick Glegg M.P. and
    Hugh Robertson MP.Minister of Sport and the Olympics at the DCMS.
    I will not let this rest untill the Countries not supporting there players.
    Stand and be counted.
    Yours in Sport T.Travis
    PS If you have anything to add please let me know.
    Please do pass this on. I look forward to your reply.

  • de staelen

    why is there any livescore during the macthes? there are so many

    people who will follow their boys but they can’t. for the parents and the

    supporters at home is this not very nice.they put so many energy into the

    sport and now there is nothing to watch, just results. it is not an open tournament

    but this is an WK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • T.Travis

    Canda Snooker should broadcast this avent. One of main reason, there is some good Canadian Players in this avent and I am sure the Canadian Snooker would like to watch.
    Do they not want to support there own players???????????????????????.
    They choose to host this avent then why not go all the way and Broadcast it.
    I am sure Canada as the expertise if niot call on in Chinese they will help I am sure.
    Yours in Snooker TT