Snooker has grown in popularity across the globe in recent years, particularly in the Far East and Europe.

Now Iran can be added to the list, however unlikely that may seem.

It is a country beset with controversy, over disputed elections, its nuclear programme and the outspoken comments of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But as with any country, the population is made up of ordinary people with the same concerns and interests as the rest of the planet.

And for a large number of Iranians, that includes snooker.

There are approximately 1,000 clubs in Iran and 100 in Tehran alone.

Now their budding snooker stars have a chance to improve significantly after landing a coach with bags of experience at the top level.

David Roe, 45, is a former world no.13 who played on the professional circuit from 1986 until he was relegated at the end of last season.

Still in love with the game, he has left Derby and headed to Tehran to pursue a new challenge.

"I heard through Peter Gilchrist [the Singapore national coach] that Iran was looking for a coach and he put me in touch with Kamran Shala, who works for the snooker federation here," Roe told snookersceneblog.

"After the very long and difficult process of getting a visa, which took two months, I arrived here in early September.

"The standard of the main three man team is very good. Soheil Vahedi is the best player in Iran at the moment but there is a 15 year-old called Hussein Vafaei who is great to watch. He pots balls from anywhere. There's also a 19 year-old, Ehsan Heydarnejad, who is talented.

"The only downside for the players at the moment is that they have very little match experience as there are not many tournaments in Iran right now, just four a year.

"The federation president, Hashern Eskandari, is a friendly, enthusiastic man and I've impressed on him the need for more tournaments. It's the only way these players will make the step up to the next level.

"But the standard is already pretty high. I played a lad of 14 the other day and he had a century. He cues a bit like Ding and is another one to watch."

Vahedi, 22, was a semi-finalist in the 2008 IBSF World Amateur Championship and runner-up in last year's World Under 21 Championship.

Iran is gaining more experience in international events and are now looking at sending their best players to the UK to practise against the best.

There are some women players but Roe is not allowed to coach them.

But television coverage does bring the professional game into Iranian homes and there is one figure who has done more than any other to send interest in snooker rocketing.

"All any of the players talk about is Ronnie O'Sullivan. They love him," Roe said.

"In the hotel where I'm staying there was a pro football team from Addis Ababa and as soon as they heard I was connected with snooker, all they wanted to ask me about was Ronnie.

"I took a two hour plane ride to a snooker club north of Iran and there were posters of Ronnie everywhere. There weren't any of any other player.

"Many of the players don't use the rest. They try to play left-handed because they want to copy Ronnie."

Roe was understandably nervous about such a leap into the unknown but is enjoying life in Iran.

"It's a beautiful country and the people are so friendly," he said.

"Tehran is amazing with mountains everywhere. It will have snow here in a few months and has the fifth highest ski resort in the world.

"People are always asking me about Man United. When I say I'm a Derby County fan they think I'm mad. I have to mention Brian Clough just to make Derby seem interesting."

Derby to Tehran may seem an unlikely step to take but the unifying currency is snooker.

"They love the game here and if I can help them improve it will be rewarding," Roe said.


hegeland said...

Khomenei and his ugly face is ever present in Iran, just like Stalin and Lenin portraits were in Soviet.

I would think twice before working for that rotten state.

Eurig Jones said...


Now what we need is for Ronnie to go over there and do an exhibition match if it fits into his schedule.

Good old Ahmadinejad... He's just one of the lads really. Maybe Ronnie'll go over there and have a few jars with him and change his opinion on a few things...

Then again, maybe not.

Ali said...

Lovely story.
Good read.

Anonymous said...

If they really practice and do well they can face O'Sullivan and not just mecca.

Ahmadinejad said...

I declare a fatwa on hegeland

Leon Mončiunskas said...

Labas my friend Mahmoud. It is Leon from Kaunas.

I still have message from you when meet in 1992 Dubai Emirate of Arab.

تناول قضايا ومشكلات الرياضة العربية على نحو علمي منظم العمل على تطوير الإعلام الرياضي العربي الإسهام في تأطير وتطوير فكر عربي رياضي يتسم بالوضوح والتميز

My best wish to you family.


Anonymous said...

According to WS live scoring, Luca Brecel is currently on a break of 9 against someone called Peter Buller, yet on their drawsheet he lost in the last round. Another lad with an Indian name appears to be playing two matches at the same time

Anonymous said...

Knowing snooker's luck, if there was a ever a ranking event in Iran, it would turn out to be the only one Reanne Evans ever qualified for.

Still, on a similar note, at least we wouldn't have to suffer Michaela Tabb.

Anonymous said...


This is due to there being a plate competition running concurrently

Anonymous said...

if reanne qaulified she would be allowed to play. women do actually have a life here.

Anonymous said...

disgusting comment by hegeland

the players looks has nothing to do with his snooker ability.

kildare cueman said...

Ignorant comments by Hegeland.

Rotten as Iran might be, the innocent Iranian people should not be penalised by being deprived of sporting facilities and access to coaching.

It is exactly this kind of project that helps move these countries in the right direction, not sweeping statements that tars everyone with the same brush.

Anonymous said...

agree kc

having seen hegeland try to play, its shocking he makes comments about people who can play, about their looks or whatever.

Betty Logan said...

As we saw from the riots following the election a large number of Iranians aren't happy with their government, and the best way to support people who want to change Iran for the better is to demonstrate that a progressive Iran will play a welcome role in the world. These types of initiatives should be encouraged in my view.

Dave H said...

I think Hegeland was referring to the former Ayatollah who put a fatwa on Salman Rushdie, not the players

Anonymous said...

so do i dave, but couldnt help retaliating to something that was out of place and quite nasty, on a snooker blog, esp if youve seen hegeland.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Rushdie said he never intended to offend anyone in "The Satanic verses". He makes this clear in his next book, "Buddha is a big fat bollix"

Anonymous said...

snooker players in general are mingin.but iranian women are so fit.

Anonymous said...

Iran will one day provide snooker with a world champion despite what the "flat earthers" on these boards believe.
The Beatles have, in fact, split up.

hegeland said...

It's not very admirable to write bold oneliners and lies anonymously...

If you actually bother to look at the picture posted in this excellent blog post, you see Khomenei is very much present... what is the rambling about players looks about? Please explain as I couldn't care less about that and I hope you do neither.

I notice two anonymous people here writing they have seen me. If you have flown to sweden and incognito spied on me, you are correct and I'm most flatterd. Otherwise you couldn't be more wrong I'm afraid.

@kildare cueman (the only sensible one that actually deserves a good reply):

I know very well there are many other opinions about how to deal with a dictatorship and I agree with you in part. I agree total isolation is definitely not the best solution, but there are big ethical problems involved in working for them. As I understand it, Mr. Roe is working for the official association and as such he is effectively getting paid from a dictatorship.

It was said by many people that the 08 Olympics would help bring China into democracy, but as far as I know the human rights situaion hasn't changed at all, only giving good PR to the communist government.

On a similar note, I don't think this initiative will do anything but giving more credit to the current goverment in Iran. Needless to say, I hope I'm totally wrong about that.

Anonymous said...

good blog this david !

hegeland you posted a video of yourself on snookerforum and that is where i seen you.

no need to try and be smart with your reply as if youve not been about using that name elsewhere.

for the record, my name is Jon and i am from the UK and i have black hair.

Anonymous said...

2 54 who are you to question Mr Roes ethics. Have you ever met him ? I dont see a problem here.

Anonymous said...

I say good on David Roe. Unlike some others, he can see an opportunity to further spread the gospel of snooker. The Iranian people do not want the government that has been imposed on them. If this is the way some of them want to express themselves, then let's encourage it.

Anonymous said...

amazing ignorance of iranian people? . dictatorship?What about the fact Tony Blair is now a multi-millionaire by selling his story of being in no 10. After dinner speeches in the USA at $250,000 a time. His salary as PM paid for by the tax payer. MR Roe i gaurantee is not on as much .ethics, morals , propaganda, blah, blah ,blah.