Hello from Fürth, where the six-day snooker festival that is the European Masters just ended, with Kyren Wilson triumphing over Barry Hawkins in a rather one sided final.
After serving as a steward for the first time in Franconia, here are a few impressions to add on to the coverage of the tournament here on SnookerHQ and offer you a spot of local colour.
Imagine a multi-purpose hall as many mid-size German cities boast: built in the early 1980s, in a style more typical for the 70s. Plenty of yellowish-brown tiles, glass art on the walls of the grand hall, and a somewhat disorienting layout with folding separations that can make a room appear or disappear overnight. The hall showing its age with a couple of leaks that became apparent when a downpour of rain descended on Fürth.
The tournament’s most talked about issue, besides the snooker, obviously. Turned on with abandon as if a climate crisis and the saving of energy and emissions were never heard of. The temperature was as low as 16 degrees amid a heat wave outside, with visitors donning knitwear inside, and some of us in the team fleeing into the oppressive heat to warm up a little. It got a little better on the finals weekend, with more people attending.
The table of misery
Table 4 offered a mere ten seats. In numbers: 10! One single row for the audience. Plus some very limited standing room. This was due to the compartmented layout of the side tables, with temporary black molton cloth partitions creating separate rooms. Neighbouring table 3 had its own small tribune with room for perhaps 50 people, thus a real audience. But for number four, there was a wall there and thus no room at all for onlookers. Jack Lisowski had to play there for two matches in a row, and Ali Carter was put there for his very quarter-final. Why the management didn’t make more use of the higher capacity tables 5 and 6, which were left empty more than once while 4 was in play, will remain their secret.
Always a favourite focus of mine, they are so often overlooked and do so much for the game. There were several not-so-often seen faces here. Carl Whitby, Marzena Lagowska, and André Santos to name only three. Their performances were excellent in general, with very few odd drop-outs like hard-to-understand difficulties in repositioning the white after a foul and miss. The business end of the tournament saw the big names in refereeing at the TV table (by then all side tables had vanished into thin air): German star-referees Maike Kesseler and Marcel Eckhardt for the semis, and Terry Camillieri being entrusted with the final.
The cancelled oddity
The draw pitted two O’Sullivans against each other, Ronnie against the somewhat lesser known Sean. If only Ronnie hadn’t bowed out…
The abundance of respotted blacks
Normally a rarity, we were shown no fewer than four of them on the weekend. No match went without one, and Kyren Wilson and Ali Carter even got treated to two of them in their semi-final.
The stars in shorts and slippers
Have you ever stayed at the same hotel as the players do? To see them in their early morning gear at breakfast – informal would be no exaggeration – is an experience. Yes, they are mere mortals after all.
The wee hours
Among the overlooked people of a major snooker event are the riggers and other stage workers. I had the chance to enquire about their end of the work day after the final night. The answer was 4am. Surely these guys deserve some respect. Sidebar – yours truly finished writing this not much earlier…
The jovial mood
In spite of some shortcomings and the described oddities, the “Stimmung” was excellent, and everyone, players, officials, the audience, and not least the team seemed to enjoy themselves. The emcee described the Stadthalle Fürth as a “dollhouse of snooker”, compared to Berlin’s Tempodrom that caters for about five times the audience. The Paul Hunter Classic, played here with great success for many years, may not exist anymore, but it’s very present anyhow: folks sport their old PHC gear, and both at the former tournament and the late, the much-beloved Paul Hunter himself was the subject of fond conversation.
The joy and the agony
Kyren Wilson was more than the usual jubilant winner. He stayed in the hall for a prolonged time, chatting with fans, and signing and selfie-ing with sheer endless patience. Barry Hawkins, on the other side, was bitterly disappointed. He had enjoyed a very strong European Masters in Fürth, with some of his matches a true demonstration of dominance, in particular his whitewash victory against Robert Milkins in the last 16. This streak left him somehow in a final into which he never seemed to really get going.
These are the snapshots of my six days at the European Masters in Fürth. Farewell from Franconia, and see you in February from the Tempodrom in Berlin. Already we look forward to that occasion.
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Featured photo credit: WST