|Jimmy White really did play the bad guy in a Hong Kong snooker movie versus Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer)|
My wife's Chinese, from Taiwan. The political situation out there is complicated, but no matter what, she'll always regard herself as Chinese and cheer on the Chinese participants in... well, pretty much anything. And snooker's pretty popular in China these days thanks to Ding Junhui. Ever since DingDing (as he's known in my household) appeared, snooker has been changing.
|Being female and attractive are important|
qualities in a snooker referee
It's a few years since then and there's isn't a player's waistcoat that doesn't have Chinese characters on it. Many tournaments are sponsored by Chinese companies you've never heard of. The China Open was revived and suddenly the Shanghai Masters competition was created. Every player benefited from new sponsorship, new prize money, new tournaments and a whole new audience. And still the commentators couldn't pronounce Ding's name (丁俊晖 - Dīng Jùnhuī - ding june-whey). But they really had better start practising their Chinese names as Ding's success didn't just create new fans, but a whole new generation of players and even a referee.
|Zhu Ying - professional snooker's newest referee|
There's a whole bunch of Chinese players suddenly appearing in the competitions too. Appearing alongside Ding Junhui in the 2012 World Championship are Cao Yupeng, Liang Wenbo and Liu Chuang. Marco Fu's in it too, but as my wife puts it "No Chinese wants to see his ugly Cantonese face. He's a Hong Kong bastard - he's not real Chinese!"
|Liang Wenbo and Ding Junhui - one lives in Romford, the other in Sheffield|
As well as those in the World Championship, there are a whole lot of other Chinese players zipping up the rankings. You can expect to see Jin Long, Li Hang, Li Yan, Liu Song, Lu Ning, Mei Xiwen, Tian Pengfei, Xiao Guodong, Yu Delu, Zhang Anda on your TV shortly and it'll be hilarious listening to the commentators stumble over their names.
One of the main differences with the Chinese players is the approach they take to their snooker careers. As well as being a professional snooker player taking part in all the main contests, Ding also has to take part in every major Asian event as he's got to be China's number one guy in as public a manner as possible over there. A further demand on Ding's time is that he's a student at Shanghai Jiao Tong University studying Business Administration and Management. Oh and he now has a chain of snooker clubs across China (although this tends to be the kind of thing you let your family run if you're Chinese, heck it was probably their idea). He's easily the busiest of the pro players and it's interesting to see just how much Ding is concentrating on securing his future after snooker; something that many other players would do well to emulate.
|It turns out that many Chinese actually are inscrutable|
Ding Junhui is a quiet and gentle man with the extraordinary burden of being a national hero from a country where that means much more than the chance to appear on ballroom dancing shows. Reading his (Chinese language) blog shows Ding going out to play in the English snow with his friends and it's quite touching to see how he shares details of his student life, encouraging his Chinese fans to study as much as they can (Ding will post pictures of things like his enrolment certificates and class schedules so his followers can see exactly what university is like). It's quite astonishing how quietly dignified Ding is. I'd be freaking out if I had the kind of pressures that he does and I definitely wouldn't be able to bear them with such serenity.
|My wife fucking loves Ronnie O'Sullivan for the respect he shows to Ding|
|There are snooker soap operas in China now, there's even a cartoon series specifically about Ding (no kidding)|
Proper writers like to do a little trick to round off articles where they make reference back to the opening sentence or the title, even if it means fudging in a semi-pun, telling a lie, saying something slightly pretentious or even merely repeating a word or two. My wife glanced over at the television earlier today after a non-yellow match and asked me "Who won the snooker?" China did, oh wife of mine, China won the snooker...
|People think that Confucius is the great philosopher sage of China, but actually it's Jimmy White|
"Legend of the Dragon" 1991 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100047/