The first ever professional snooker tournament in South America will be held this week as the 2011 Brazil Masters – also known as the Brazilian Masters – commences on Thursday.
Thirteen of the world’s best in the sport will be joined by Brazilian professional Igor Figueiredo and two amateur countrymen as wildcards.
The invitational event marks the opportunity for continued global growth for the sport having already tapped into markets in the Far East, Australia and central Europe.
With India being touted as a future hotspot, the inclusion of Brazil to the calendar ensures there is a worldwide ambition for the game.
This was highlighted by the obvious rage that World Snooker supremo Barry Hearn expressed when several of the Top 16 members refused their invitations to the new championship.
Some will argue that, with the influx in so many new tournaments, there should be some leeway into what tournaments the players wish to partake in.
In other instances this may be acceptable but the inaugural staging of the Brazil Masters in a fresh market ensured the necessity for a recognised presence.
Hearn openly ridiculed the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, John Higgins and Neil Robertson, among others, for not representing their sport for the greater good.
That said, snooker is becoming such a healthy sport at the moment that even without the likes of those players the Brazilian fans should still be in for a treat.
In a mouth-watering first round clash, newly crowned Shanghai Masters champion Mark Selby takes on the winner from the opening ranking event of the season Down Under, Stuart Bingham.
Selby will officially be crowned the world’s best player when the standings are revised next month and his rise to the top reflects his dedication to the game and his willingness to promote the sport afar.
Likewise, Graeme Dott, Shaun Murphy, Peter Ebdon, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis are all in attendance as world champions from three different eras.
It will be interesting to see what the reception is like for the players because, quite frankly, it could go either way judging on recent experiences.
While it was already known that there was a market in the country, the German Masters in February exceeded all expectations as an astounding 2,500 enthusiastic fans packed the Tempodrom in Berlin each night.
By contrast, a random trip to Bahrain in 2008 for a ranking event resulted in considerably empty arenas – much to the embarrassment of the old regime led by Sir Rodney Walker.
It would be great if we got the former again as opposed to what occurred in Bahrain because the prospect of a Latin American involvement in snooker is exciting.
For Figueiredo and the two wildcards it is a fantastic opportunity for them to play in their home country – something that I’m sure seemed an improbable imagination only a couple of years ago.
Figueiredo earned a place on the professional Main Tour last season after finishing runner-up in the World Amateur Championship.
The 33 year-old began the campaign well and competed at the televised stages of the World Open – his early progress enough to marginally keep on the circuit for this season as well.
However, the Rio de Janeiro potter has struggled for funding in the last couple of months and has been an absentee from many of the summer events.
It almost guarantees that Figueiredo will not regain his tour card for next year but this week will act as a unique opportunity for him to promote the sport locally which, in turn, will hopefully produce renewed sponsorship.
It is for reasons like this that Hearn was so furious at the top players’ refusal to play and who can blame him?
Nevertheless, the chance remains for it to be successful and let us hope that it is just that.
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