Luca Brecel, the 16 year-old Belgian earmarked by many as a star of the future, was beaten 5-1 by Sam Baird today in the Australian Open qualifiers.

This is Brecel's first season as a professional. There is not only expectation from others but also from himself.

We've been here before: Ding Junhui, Judd Trump and many others before them have appeared on the pro scene after outstanding amateur careers but found it initially very difficult.

And, of course, it doesn't take long for people to get on their backs and start questioning whether they were much cop to start with.

This season will be a learning process for Brecel. If he keeps his tour card he has done well.

I thought I would re-run a profile I wrote about him in Snooker Scene two years ago when he played in the World Series grand finals, for those who hadn't read it or had long forgotten it.

This was first published in June 2009. Since then Brecel has won the European amateur title. Indeed, he would have qualified for the main tour last year but was, at 15, a year too old (that age restriction has now been withdrawn).

He also played in Power Snooker and various PTCs and has undertaken exhibitions with the likes of Stephen Hendry.

Brecel will represent Belgium alongside Bjorn Haneveer in the forthcoming World Cup in Bangkok.


Luca Brecel’s capture of the EBSA European Under 19 Championship at the age of just 14, making him the youngest ever winner of this highy competitive event, was evidence of a growing talent.

His performances in the World Series grand finals in Portimao, Portugal provided further proof of a snooker prodigy with the potential to go a long way in the sport.

He beat Jimmy White 4-3, albeit in a six reds contest, and Ken Doherty 5-3 in a match using ten reds.

Brecel then led Graeme Dott 4-2 in the quarter-finals before losing 5-4 but more than impressed the 2006 world champion.

“He’s a million times better than me when I was 14,” said Dott.

“I didn’t realise he was quite as good as people had said. I never saw Ding play at that age but Luca is the best 14 year old talent I have seen by a mile.

“He seemed very calm and I think the key thing is that he hits the ball like an adult. You get a lot of kids who kind of slap the white but he hits it with authority without hitting it hard. He cues really well.

“There’s no doubt he’ll be a player, unless he gets familiar with girls and beer.”

There seems little likelihood that Brecel will go off the rails. He is a snooker obsessive. He recorded every match from this year’s World Championship and has watched them all.

“His three hobbies are snooker, snooker and snooker,” said Marnik Geukens, a journalist with the Het Belang Van Limburg newspaper who travelled to the Algarve to report on Brecel’s progress, a sign of the interest he is already generating in his home country.

“He was really disappointed when he lost to Graeme because he genuinely thought he could win the tournament. When he loses, you have to leave him alone for five minutes.

“Luca has a feeling for the game. He played football as a kid and was very good at it but he has asthmatic problems so he couldn’t really run about. He found a new challenge in snooker.”

Brecel’s introduction to snooker was accidental. At the age of nine he was on holiday with his family and he and his father found a pool table and started playing.

Some sort of bug caught, they found a snooker club when they returned home and Brecel’s obsession with the game began.

“At first Luca didn’t know how to hold the cue because he’d never seen the game before. He would hold it with both of his hands,” said Danny Moermans, who has been coaching him for the last four and a half years.

“It was clear he was fascinated with snooker from the beginning.

“He can play all the shots but has to learn about the tactical aspect of the game, about shot selection and matchplay. He needs experience and the World Series has helped with that.

“He practises four to six hours a day. He loves it. When he wakes up the first thing he thinks about is snooker and when he goes to bed the last thing he thinks about is snooker.”

Brecel won the European under 19 title in St. Petersburg in March when he cleared the colours to edge Michael Wasley 6-5.

Ordinarily, this would have earned him a ticket for the professional circuit but the age limit for joining the main tour or the Pontin’s International Open Series, the game’s secondary tour, is 16.

“We didn’t expect him to win it,” Moermans said. “Last year, he reached the last 32 and this year we just wanted him to do better.

“I’ve spoken to other coaches about him and they have said not to rush things just because he’s won it. He still has time to improve.

“I want him to carry on playing and enjoying it. He needs to play good players but there is no hurry.”

Brecel’s 27 year-old sister, Jessica, is autistic and lives in an institution. The siblings are close. Jessica has covered her walls with newspaper cuttings documenting her brother’s fledgling career.

Brecel shares some of the traits associated with autism. He is quiet and can be uneasy around strangers.

In the arena, though, such single mindedness is a plus as he is able to shut out the distractions and pressures around him.

“As a snooker player, he is in his own world. He doesn’t get overawed by a big audience,” said Geukens.

“He understands English but he doesn’t like speaking that much.

“He does like being around a tournament like the grand finals, though, and being around the players.

“Mark Selby walked up to him and was fooling around, pretending to throw a punch, and Luca has been talking about it ever since. He was so excited to have that interaction.

“He is becoming more open as a person. He is only 14 and it is not uncommon that at that age a boy doesn’t speak that much to people he doesn’t know.”

His parents support his career and travel everywhere with him. His father works as a hail hunter – following hail storms and repairing the damage caused by them.

Brecel has a table at home where he is also tutored, having been taken out of school.

His early achievements have caught the attention of the media and have helped raise the profile of the sport in a country where it has declined in recent years.

“He’s getting big in Belgium” Geukens said. “He’s from the same region as the tennis player Kim Clisters and for us he’s the new Kim, one to follow.

“He’s been on national television and he has a lot of requests of interviews. He’s also had some approaches from managers.

“It’s what snooker in Belgium needs. I went to the Crucible for my newspaper in 1992. The game was big at that time. We had tournaments like the European Open and Humo Masters.

“We had players coming through as well but we never got one who reached the very top and the interest in snooker faded.

“With Eurosport’s coverage and Luca and also Bjorn Haneveer getting back on the main tour we can go forward.”

Certainly, Brecel is a promising prospect. His love for snooker was clear to see in Portugal where he spent most of his time after getting knocked out playing on the spare table.

He plays with a half smile on his face. This is not arrogance but a sign of contentment. He is never more at ease than when he is playing.

How far he can go depends on more than just his talent. He must steer clear of those who wish to exploit him or overburden him with the weight of expectation.

At 14, he seems immune to all of this. The years ahead will prove whether he can remain so.


kimball said...

Ding Junhui is a wonderboy that got mentally raped by his Wembley experience, slowly picked himself to-
gether and emerged as a solid top five player.
Judd Trump, finally and amazingly stepped into the perfect zone.
Luca Brecel, and you mentioned his sister, so the cat is out of the bag,
is slightly autistic and I just wonder if that will take away the temperamental edge and is it a disadvantage or will it balance itself out with the presumed lack of nerves that autism might bring into the game?

kildare cueman said...

Many 14 year old wonderkids have never made it at snooker, but I'd love to see Brecel break through.

His quick attacking style would be an asset for the game, but more importantly, it would elevate the Belgian game and provide another non British/Asian top player.

I think the PTC's are a big help for new young stars like Luca. A year of playing the pros and mostly getting beaten takes a lot of expectation off them. They can develop and improve at their own pace and in a way, serve an apprenticeship.

Anonymous said...

Dave the WS website has a rules update. I was wondering if you could translate it into English as it is very technical! Is there anything significant?

Anonymous said...

I had a look at the rules update and couldnt find any changes at all. probably just a change of wording or something.

Betty Logan said...

I get the feeling the title is a riff or a pun on something, anyone care to enlighten me?

Hope Luca gets rich and then maybe he can pull his sister out of the institution and get her a carer or something. It's such a downer when Tom Cruise takes his brother back to one in Rain Man. People used to get stuck into Trump, and before him Shaun Murphy for not achieving in their teens, but I think we just have to get used to the fact that early 20s is now the normal breakthrough age. The good thing about the PTC—especially for British players—is that most of them should be used to playing and beating pros by the time they qualify for the main tour, so maybe we will see a few more rapid rises like Lisowksi last season.

Anonymous said...

@Betty: Suzanne Vega - My name is Luca

Anonymous said...

I think the title is a pun on 'my name is Luca' by Suzanne Vega (which is a song about child abuse)

Anonymous said...


breakthrough age is when you good enough but if you want to even start to challenge Hendry even Ronnie earlier the better.

Michael said...

The title is a play on Suzanne Vega's 1987 hit Luka (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luka_%28song%29).

Over here in Belgium, the name Luca Brecel is starting to ring a bell, i.e. most people will have vaguely heard of him. He was in the news a while ago, being named Belgium's sport prospect of the year 2010.

I hope he can stay on the tour without having to worry about money. They were looking for government funding, but snooker is not a so-called "topsport" over here. But it looks as though they've got that sorted out. He beat Hamilton 4-0 in the first PTC, then lost 4-3 to Lines.

Anonymous said...

"...but was, at 15, a year too old."

What?? Dave Hendon, you are always a champion of well written pieces so I suppose this is not a mistake. Was it the junior main tour that he was too old for (a tour that may possibly only exist inside my head)?

Dave H said...

I meant a year too young