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Snooker: First Asian champion from Afghanistan

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Saleh Mohammad on Friday became the first Afghan to win the amateur Asian snooker title, expressing hope that his victory would lift the game in the war-ravaged country.

The 40-year-old, who also represented Pakistan at a regional and world level from 1988 to 2006, beat Syria's Omar al Kojah 7-2 in a one-sided final.

"It's a dream come true for me," Mohammad told AFP. "I don't know, but I can claim to be the first Afghan to become an Asian champion in any sport and it means a lot to my homeland where they clamour for a sporting title."

Pakistan organised the 29th edition of the Asian championship despite a rise in violence in both Karachi and the country at large.

Mohammad, who lived in Pakistan for many years after becoming a refugee but in 2006 switched to representing Afghanistan, won a glittering trophy and $7,000.

He now runs a snooker parlour in Kabul and called on the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to increases its support for the game.

"Snooker is gaining in popularity day by day... and can help divert youth from being involved in unhealthy activity to a peacful and rewarding game," he said.

Mohammad reached the the final of the world amateur snooker championship in China in 2003 while representing Pakistan.

The International Billiards and Snooker Federation president Jim Leacy praised the hosts for organising a successful event in which 14 countries featured.

"I had no hesitation in coming to Pakistan and the successful hosting and wide coverage of the event has made me envious," Leacy said at the prize distribution.

India refused to send its players amidst heightening tension between the two countries and security fears for their players.

Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association president Aalmgeer Shaikh hoped the event would remove doubts about the safety of visiting sportsmen in the country.

"We hope that more and more international sports will be held in our country," said Shaikh.

Pakistan has been a no-go zone for international teams since militants attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130503/snooker-first-asian-champion-afghanistan