My first snooker match

Not my first of course, but a mate of mine who I have bored to death with snooker tales over the last few years decided to go along to watch John Higgins vs Marco Fu at the Masters today to get an idea of what on earth I’m doing spending hundreds of pounds every year for! Click below to read what he thought of the experience, as well as view some of his photos from the day…

I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest snooker fan. Willie Thorne’s bigger than me for starters. I was a fan in the early 90s, when Stephen Hendry was actually good, and was casually dismissing everyone in his path. He was appealing, entertaining, and just so bloody good. My other snooker hero, Alain Robidoux, was less so, but a legend regardless.

Over time, I fell out of interest with the snooker scene, as other sports took a firmer hold. But over the last two years the interest has come back – for that you can blame a certain blogger – to the point I decided to take in my first live snooker. Given the lack of London events (shocking considering it’s the nation’s capital and the best city in the country), the Masters was targeted a while ago when I decided I wanted to, and with two of my favourite players drawn against each other, Tuesday’s Marco Fu vs John Higgins clash was a no-brainer.

Wembley Arena’s an odd place at the best of times. For snooker it’s even more surreal. A vast, vast building cornered off into a much smaller venue, which for the (grateful) lack of a Ronnie O’Sullivan tie on the day was rather empty. Even CueZone was vacant, bereft of BBC faces upon arrival and young lads chancing their arm at some practice. You feel like an outsider, like everyone there knows each other (which I’m assured is probably true at some events) and moreover they know you’re a newbie.

Sitting in the second row, you’re immediately aware your ugly mug is likely to spend much of the afternoon on television, especially when you’re sitting behind Higgins. A fact also not forgotten by MC Rob Walker, who does his introductions with camera basically on me. Out come your players, and suddenly it’s deadly silent. Game on.

The lights are bright. Very, very bright. Everything around them shrouded in darkness, which even if it wasn’t snooker would encourage a tense hush from the crowd. Things look smaller than they do on the television. The table, the set, the arena. Everything except Fu, who looked considerably less like a pocket toy than he does on my screen.

It’s a tentative, slightly nervy start as both look for an opening to get themselves going. It falls to Higgins as he goes 2-0 ahead (including a magnificent tournament-high 140 break), and starts the third frame well. But the momentum switches, and the feeling is palpable – you just know Fu’s got what he wants now, and true enough, it’s 4-4 at the break, including a rare re-spot black to decide a tied frame. On my first visit, how generous.

The stampede out of the arena at the mid-session interval to the overpriced and expensive bar/restaurant upstairs isn’t quite met by the same enthusiasm on return twenty minutes later and frame five is played before a much, much emptier arena. Fu takes it, and London’s finest return to their seats. Fu goes 4-2 up, and I’m sitting there torn. I just about prefer Fu to anyone else, but have money riding on Higgins winning, as he tends to do when I take a noted interest in a tournament.

It’s already been a long one, and if my bet is to stay alive, it’ll be even longer. Frame seven is when the first signs of fatigue kick in with me, this being my longest single focus on snooker perhaps ever. It passes, and as the stakes rise, Higgins rises with them, hauling himself back into the match at 4-4. People lean further forward in their seats, press their £5 radio closer to their ear to enjoy the dulcet tones of Messrs Parrott and Taylor, and settle in for the final three frames.

Higgins finds his second wind and begins to pull away, but you’re never certain, and he certainly gives Fu enough morsels on which to feast. Both make mistakes, going in-off, playing uncertain safety, but both benefit from their fair share of flukes. Whoever loses is going to feel hard done by, but as the clock ticks closer to 6pm you begin to feel it’s going the way of the Wizard of Wishaw.

Duly, it does, and perhaps in the appropriate fashion of a fluked black after Fu had choked a pink. Down to the last two balls of the afternoon, a long, four hour plus one. Can’t say I didn’t get my money’s worth. A few more pictures later, including one of my favourite Ferrero Rocher Trophy, and I’m away into the evening.

If you’re like me, and enjoy watching snooker on TV more casually than anything – I’m by no means an obsessive and therefore have the limited knowledge you might expect – get yourself along to your next local event. It’ll be cheap, worth the money, and as long as you pick the right players and have a little bit of luck, a great few hours.

I think I’ll certainly be going back.

Cheers to Phil for an interesting perspective on what was a very tense match, as well as a few excellent photos.

If you are a football (or more specifically a Chelsea), fan and are interested in more of his writing, please click here to view a website that he is involved in.