Every country has at least one sport that most of its population follow passionately. Here in America, it’s football. Over in Britain, it’s also football (or rather soccer as we call it). Did you know that in China it’s snooker? This might a surprise to you – it was to us – but the pastime has grown incredibly popular in recent years. If you want to know why, give this a look.
Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, snooker was a sport beloved by those in Britain. That’s hardly a shock. When we think of who might enjoy a reserved, rather formal sport like snooker, we definitely think of the Brits. They loved it so much that 18.5 million of them tuned in to the 1985 World Championship between home talents Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor. The Championship match, which was ultimately won by Taylor, was the pinnacle of the British love affair with snooker. However, once it was over, the country started to pull away from the sport. Snooker is no longer the as beloved as it used to be over there, so China has since stepped in to take Britain’s place. It’s reached the point now where roughly 60 million people in the country play snooker. That’s a lot of people hitting balls with sticks.
Development in China
When they noticed that interest in the sport was growing, the Chinese government made a move to help it thrive. That’s why so many of the most well-known players nowadays originate from China. More money has been placed into advertising the sport on Chinese TVs, with a wealth of new clubs also popping up as a result. Shanghai is now home to 1500 of these snooker clubs alone, and the prevalence has attracted people from all backgrounds to show an interest in the game. The most popular clientele are white collar workers in the 16-35 age bracket, because they view snooker on a professional level – it’s something they can aspire to.
The growth now continues due to a snowballing effect, with popular players like Li Hang and Marco Fu acting as inspiration for the younger generations. The more the sport develops in the country, the more attention it receives. As this happens, a greater proportion of the population views the sport as a worthwhile investment of their time. It’s a growth that currently doesn’t show any sign of stopping.
How does the future look?
Things are looking bright for the future of snooker in China. The government continues to invest in the sport as it’s popularity increases, so facilities across the country are both increasing and improving in quality. The development is gradual, but it’s likely to pay off in the long run.
Do you know how many people are believed to have watched the 2016 World Championship final? 210 million. That’s somewhere in the region of 16% of the country’s total population, which is actually pretty massive. The match was so popular because Ding Junhui was one of the finalists, making him the first Asian player to ever make it that far in the World Championships. With stars like him boosting the name of the sport in China, the country is sure to continue its love affair with snooker for many more years to come.
So there you have it. Britain may no longer be obsessed with snooker, but China still is. Are we likely to see success from more people like Ding Junhui over the next few years? We’d be willing to put money on it.