Hold on to your hat – snooker is going global

IT'S fair to say that Alan Trigg's passport is probably as well-thumbed as Michael Palin's and Alan Whicker's.

It's all in the aid of spreading the snooker gospel, but the Horsforth-based former pro's nomadic existence is set to come to an end – for the next four years at least.

That's because the World Snooker Association coach is putting down some roots in Doha – capital of Qatar – after being handed a prestigious four-year secondment in the Gulf that would be the envy of many.

With cue sports, encompassing snooker, pool, billiards and carom – a billiard-style game which originated in Belgium for the uninitiated – set to be officially recognised at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the green baize, or red or blue for that matter, is ready to become a truly global phenomenon.

That's where 48-year-old snooker guru Trigg comes in. The highly-respected coach, who has had national success in the UK with the late Paul Hunter and six-times world ladies champion Kelly Fisher, recently handed a dream job with the International Olympic Committee.

It basically entails coaching the coaches from a host of aspiring nations aiming to be right on cue in time for the London Games, while developing the cream of potting talent in the Middle East.

But before arriving in Qatar in August, Trigg's globe-trotting itinerary will see him pop in at Poland, Latvia, Mexico, Turkey – and the Beijing Games for good measure.

He already knows most of the former countries of the Soviet Union like the back of his hand, having regularly visited Russia and the Baltic States to teach snooker-mad youngsters and establish a coaching infrastructure. Interest in the game there has snowballed rapidly and it looks set to continue.

And Trigg is confident that the Eastern bloc will soon be supplying potting stars of the future to rival the bludgeoning brigade coming out of China – snooker's current new kid on the block – with the likes of world number 11 and ex-UK Open champion Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo poised to become household names.

But soon it's onto the Middle East for Trigg, where there is also a reservoir of young potting talent waiting to be tapped into.

On his own Gulf mission, Trigg, who can boast 32 years of coaching and time spent as a professional player, said: "It's something I was asked to do three months ago, but I wasn't sure. I've actually taken a massive drop in wages, but I think it's worthwhile and working for the IOC is a dream come true.

"Over the last four or five months, my carbon footprint must be one of the biggest in the world! I've gone from one place to another and it will be nice for everyone to be able to come to me in Qatar and not have to travel so much to be honest."

"The facilities in Qatar are second to none. I will be based in an incredible building in Doha – and there's a miniature snooker centre inside. It's fantastic."

Trigg, who started playing at six and coaching aged 18, explained: "The IOC was looking for someone to go out and basically coach the coaches worldwide.

"The countries that want to enter the cue sports at the Olympics will send me their coaches and I will teach them the match rules and etiquette. In a nutshell, that's what I will be doing.

"In addition, I will be promoting snooker in Qatar. Across Asia, they play a game called Pyramid, which uses a table exactly the same size as a snooker one, and all they have to do is change the cushions and the pockets.

"I'll be doing coaching clinics for the most promising 15 and 16 year olds before they are sent to England to be professionally taught at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield.

"But every child in the country at the age of six is to be introduced to the sport, and it's a similar system to the one I've been setting up in Russia, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus.

"The third part of my job is then coaching the Qatar national team."

Snooker is rapidly becoming a League of Nations sport, with the green-baize fervour in China and the Far East having to be seen to be believed.

In China, the world's most populated nation, it's second only in popularity to basketball in the nation's sporting affections – a massive 110m watched Junhui's Chinese Open success three years ago – and the game's top potters are feted like royalty over there.

China is intent on stamping its own mark on a game that has long been the understated preserve of Britain and Ireland.

But watch out, the Russians are coming as well. With snooker growing at a pace few other sports can currently match from Kiev to Vladivostok.

It's all music to the ears of Trigg, whose view is "long may it continue".

He said: "One of my friends is a Russian sports commentator on Eurosport called Vladmir Sinisin, who is very, very famous. He commentates on basketball and ice hockey, and was asked to do snooker some time ago.

"Because he's such a famous person in Russia, snooker is shown regularly there now and it's become ridiculously popular.

"I have a website and Vlad mentioned it on his commentary during the recent world championships and I then had 52,000 hits, that's how popular it's become.

"The final was watched by 47 million people in Russia. It's really taken off there, and in Asia, the Far East and the Middle East, it's just getting bigger and bigger.

"Within 10 years, the Russians will be producing players like the Chinese are now.

"Snooker is really turning into a worldwide game and if we can get America involved, it will become a massive sport. At the moment all the major tournaments are in England but, in a decade, you'll get two or three major ones worldwide."

In his amateur days, Trigg was a contempory of ex-Embassy world champion Peter Ebdon and Anthony Hamilton, who he played with for England before turning pro.

But his fledgling career had hardly started when he lost the tips of two fingers from his left hand in a horrific work accident in 1993.

He continued to coach, but didn't pick up a cue again for eight years, until cajoled into doing so by partner Vivienne.

Trigg still plays on the senior circuit, but coaching takes up most of his time and that is where his heart lies.

He said: "I love teaching and that's my real passion.

"Even when I gave up for eight years, I still coached and now I have more fondness for coaching than playing."