The EBSA European Snooker Championship is the premier amateur snooker tournament in Europe and this year it is being held in Portugal at the VidaMar Hotel Resort in the Algarve from the 2nd to 17th October. Gibraltar players Lee Prickman and Michael J Kane have booked their places in the Algarve event organised by EBSA (European Billiards & Snooker Association) in conjunction with the Federaçao Portuguesa de Bilhar (FPB).
Lee, apart from being the number one player in Gibraltar, is also the Secretary for GBSA (Gibraltar Billiards & Snooker Association) based at The Crucible Club in Jumpers Bastion. He explains that this was the same tournament that was due to be held in March last year, but it didn’t go ahead because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“On Saturday the 15th March last year I played Judd Trump, the world number one, in the Gibraltar Open and for the first time in snooker history there was no-one except for the two of us, the referee and two camera people, that was it, there was not another person in the stadium,” Lee says. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, matches were originally limited to a maximum audience of 100 but after the first day, all matches were played without any spectators. “Francis Becerra and I were due to leave for Portugal the day after the tournament finished, but it was called off.”
Michael, originally from Northern Ireland, and Lee are entering three different tournaments, the first one being the 6 Reds beginning on Thursday, 7th October. The second is the Men’s and Mixed. “This is the showcase tournament and it means that anybody of any age or any gender can enter,” Lee states, and the third is the Seniors competition for over 40s, the final of which concludes on Friday 15th October. There is also a team tournament going on at the same time but as Lee and Michael are in the Seniors they can’t enter in case they are drawn against someone they are already playing. “There are also Individual tournaments for the U18s and U21s, which we don’t qualify for,” Lee laughs, “so we decided to play in the best categories that we could fit in to.” All tournaments are mini-league style round robin played until the knockout stages, except the 6 reds which is a straight knockout from start to conclusion.
Lee explains that there will be 16 competition tables brought and set up particularly for the tournament, with between twenty-eight and thirty countries represented and up to one hundred and twenty to one hundred and forty players in the Men’s category alone. “The tournament will be live streamed from the EBSA.tv website – and other media outlets will also link in to that and project it worldwide,” he says.
The EBSA European Snooker Championship attracts the best amateur players from Europe vying for a chance to get a 2 Year Pro Snooker Tour card. “Some of the budding amateurs utilise the facility of having access to become professional via this tournament,” Lee states. “There will also be many well-known names in the world of snooker taking part who have been professional in the past but who have fallen off the tour and are looking for a way back in.”
Lee names ex-professional Darren Morgan (Wales) who won the World Amateur Championship in 1987 and played on the professional main tour from 1988 until 2006. “He plays in the Seniors and wins it most times,” he says. “There is a very good player from Finland called Robin Hull – who used to be an exceptionally good professional player, and one of the youngsters that will be taking part in the Under 21s championship is a guy called Connor Benzey who is looking to turn professional.”
Asked how he thinks that he will do in his tournaments, Lee comments that he will be competing with the best non-professional players in this part of the world and because they are all trying to do the best for their countries, they all come under a lot of pressure. “Michael and I are both decent players and we can beat any of the other competitors, but it is all down to a bit of luck on the day.”
“The tournament tables are a little bit different, harsher and faster than those we normally play on, and the pockets are cut very tightly so you have got to be very accurate, but as long as we can brush the pressure aside as soon as possible and play and cue well – I am not going to say we are going to win it – but there is every chance that we may certainly make a few surprises.”
The Crucible Club, with between sixty and eighty members, is back up and running now after having being closed during the lockdown periods, and is of course complying with hygiene and social distancing criteria. Lee says the Club is keen to welcome new members, especially in the juniors section. “It would be great if we could enter players from Gibraltar into the Under 18s and Under 21s in future EBSA tournaments,” he says.
Lee and Michael are proud to be representing Gibraltar at the EBSA European Snooker Championship and Insight wishes them the very best of luck in their endeavours in Portugal.