Snooker: World champion O'Sullivan aims to revolutionise sport in Asia through Singapore academy
Snooker legend Ronnie O'Sullivan's visit to Singapore looks set to be a major boost for the sport.
The seven-time world champion and world No. 1 is in town to launch his first Ronnie O'Sullivan Snooker Academy (Rossa) at The Grandstand in Bukit Timah and play some exhibition matches with China's world No. 6 Zhao Xintong, women's world champion Nutcharut Wongharuthai, Singapore's Jaden Ong and members of the public.
He will have a hand in developing Rossa's training curriculum and make more appearances at the academy in the future.
Hoping to leave a legacy and revolutionise and revitalise the sport in Asia, where an estimated 100 million people play it, O'Sullivan said: "I've taken enough from the sport. It's time I give a bit back."
After having his senses stimulated by a lion dance performance at Rossa on Saturday (June 11), the 46-year-old told The Straits Times how his affection for Asia came about: "Asian players respond to me more. In the UK, everyone just does their own thing and maybe they are a bit shy to share and ask for help.
"But when I go to China, a lot of the Chinese players make me eat with them. We build relationships and I feel like a part of them. We play snooker together and I start to want to show them a few things and it just became closer relationships."
London-based O'Sullivan is known to be kind and generous with Asian players on the snooker tour and sometimes drops by Victoria's Snooker Academy in Sheffield to give pointers to players like Zhao, whom he dubbed the "Roger Federer of snooker" and tipped to be a future world champion for his accuracy and smoothness.
Said the 25-year-old, who has two ranking titles: "It's amazing how I'm now getting tips from my childhood hero, and how he will show up to help us in times of need, even when it comes to issues with travel documents.
"He is a great guy and a great inspiration and I really want to repay his kindness by doing as well as I can."
Such stories are also why Rossa CEO Gary Tan decided to start the academy with O'Sullivan, and build a professional ecosystem that starts with house rules such as no slippers, no singlets, and no gambling on the premises.
He said: "Discipline, commitment, respect and focus are paramount for us. We want to do the right things, and to do things right. To be the best like Ronnie, you need to have the right approach to the game. Instilling the right values will help create the right culture so players from our academy can have the desired focus and drive to succeed."
Rossa plans to nurture a base of quality young players and provide them competition opportunities at an Asian amateur circuit and then a professional tour. It also aims to open branches in Thailand and China to build a strong base of players to start an Asian circuit.
Despite feeling a little tired after arriving on Thursday, O'Sullivan proved to be a people's champion, mingling freely and entertaining all wefie requests, helping to respot balls during a friendly between Zhao and Nutcharut, and giving a quick snooker tutorial to the guest-of-honour, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong.
Mr Tong noted how Rossa is playing a part to take Singapore cuesports to a new level, as it made national pool player Sharik Sayed its first scholar, awarding him free access to practice facilities, a monthly stipend, coaching and mentorship, and sponsoring his overseas tournament participation.
He added: "The opening of Rossa is a vivid example of how private enterprise can contribute to the promotion and development of sport in Singapore.
"Private academies and institutions are key stakeholders that the government will continue to work and partner with to build a strong and vibrant sporting culture in Singapore."