In an exclusive conversation, the legendary cueist speaks about his early life and how he got into the sport.
Pankaj Advani has been a trailblazer in cue sports in India. He is one of the biggest flag-bearers of billiards and snooker in the country. With over two decades of experience, Advani is one of the most sought-after sportspersons in the country. His legacy as a cueist is second to none.
Advani has won 24 world titles and is a two-time Asian Games gold medalist. He has received the Khel Ratna and Padma Bhushan awards. However, unlike his career, Advani’s early life was filled with several difficulties. His family suffered from the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, as they lived in Kuwait back then. The legendary cueist, in an exclusive interview with Khel Now, opened up on his family’s struggles during his childhood.
The impact of Gulf War on his childhood
“The first few years of my life were very eventful, to say the least,” Pankaj Advani began. “But, I have very few memories of them. Some of them were life-changing because we were based in Kuwait. Our whole family – my father, mother, elder brother were on a holiday in the United States. Just before returning to Kuwait, we got the news that Iraq had invaded Kuwait. We could not return to any Middle-East airports, as all of them were shut because of the Gulf War. So, we were stranded in transit in Belgrade and eventually, we made our way back to India.”
The aftermath of the Gulf War meant that the Advani family had to shift to India and his father decided to move to Bengaluru because of the weather. Pankaj Advani smirks in shock at how things fell in place for him to pursue cue sports.
“That is where my dad chose Bangalore as the city to settle down, mainly because he loved the weather and how calm the surroundings were. Snooker also happened because we lived in a place two minutes away from the snooker club. Sometimes, I feel it’s all a part of destiny, it was something that was meant to happen,” the legendary cueist continued.
But, not everything went his way, as Pankaj Advani lost his father soon after his return from Kuwait to get back their possession and assets. Therefore, his mother had a huge impact on Advani taking up the sport during his early life.
“Of course, it was unfortunate for us because we lost a lot. My father’s health deteriorated a lot after the war, as he returned to Kuwait to get back our possession and assets. He passed away soon after returning to India and I was just 6-years-old. So, my mother single-handedly raised the two of us,” reminisces Pankaj Advani
How he got interested in cue sports
Pankaj Advani highlighted how he has tried his hand at many sports before finally choosing cue sports. “During the late 90s, not many sports were big apart from cricket because it has been there for a long time. I used to play very decent level badminton, cricket, table tennis and even basketball. I was reasonably good at some of them, but not at the level that I eventually reached in cue sports,” Advani highlighted.
When quizzed how he got into snooker and billiards, he shared how he started watching his elder brother play and developed a love for the game. “I used to watch my brother play at snooker clubs with his friends. I was very short at that time and was not allowed to try my hand at the game. But then, after three weeks, I decided I will also try because I have observed the stance and how you keep the bridge on the table.
“The first shot that I got the ball went into the pocket. So, that’s how my journey began and since then I was obsessed. I used to make time from school to play. I used to finish off my homework early and be attentive in class, just to get those 2-3 hours every evening at the snooker club. It was just passion for me. It was something that i did not feel earlier with any other sports,” Pankaj Advani concluded.
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