Hossein Vafaei invited snooker fans to “get your popcorn” ahead of a fiery contest against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the World Championship.
The 28 year-old from Iran won his first ever match at the Crucible Theatre with a terrific 10-6 triumph over Ding Junhui on Monday in Sheffield.
Vafaei produced a spellbinding standard to come from 5-3 behind and see off the former world number one with a blitz of devastating scoring, leading to a standing ovation from the crowd inside the arena.
But the headlines are all about his upcoming second-round clash with reigning champion O’Sullivan, who he has shared a war of words with over the last year or so.
“I love it,” a smiling Hossein Vafaei told the World Snooker Tour when reminded of his clash with the seven-time world champion.
“I love it, honestly. I said that if he comes and beats me 13-0, I still love it to get involved in this match. Get your popcorn everyone, watch this one.”
“Listen, he was my hero. Maybe on the way to beating him (for the first time), I cried. I never see myself to beat him, because he was my hero.
“Once I beat him 5-0, I was sad a little bit. In one side, I was happy because I showed I can play – the way he was saying something like ‘this guy can’t play and this guy can’t do that.’
“Once I give him a good game, he will remember that – 100%. He was my hero when I was young, but now he is my opponent.
“This is life, I have to stand in front of him one day if I want to become world champion. He already proved everything, he doesn’t have to show anything to us any more.
“He has done enough in this sport, so yeah, it’s going to be a good game – hopefully I play the way I played with Ding.
“I was talking to myself, don’t give me that opportunity. If you give me it, I’m going to do the same as he done to me.
“He will get that and everyone will be surprised. I said that to my God, and he made that. Everything happens for a reason, you can’t run away.
“If you do something bad to the people – if you break someone else’s heart – God will give you that opportunity to get your revenge.”
The Vafaei and O’Sullivan feud began to develop last year when the Iranian star questioned the latter’s lack of respect toward other players in the sport.
“A lot of things he says frustrates me. What kind of legend are you if you call people numpties?” Hossein Vafaei was quoted as saying by the Metro in 2022.
“Maybe he likes it and gives him a good feeling but I think people should treat him like that as well. I treat him like he deserves.”
“To be honest, Ronnie O’Sullivan without his team, without the people who are around him, he wouldn’t be here at all. He wouldn’t be here at all.
“He’s comparing himself with someone else. He’s comparing me with someone else. I don’t like that. We don’t have to compare ourselves to others.
“He’s saying ‘you are poor, I am rich, I am Ronnie O’Sullivan.’ I don’t like that. I have money, my people in Iran have money, but we have to respect human beings as well.
“I don’t want to get involved in that kind of conversation really. I like him a lot, I am his fan, I love what he does but sometimes he’s disrespectful, he’s not good for the game.
“I think he should retire, to be honest with you. He should retire and then the younger generation make the game bigger.”
After being reminded of the comments following his first-round victory over Pang Junxu on Saturday, O’Sullivan said on Eurosport: “Has he been saying much about me this year?”
“I think he has learned to be quiet. Don’t rattle my cage, I love it when they call me out, I love it when they give me stick. I just love it.
“It turns me on, I get off on it. I need something to find, so I’m hoping someone says something, and hopefully I get better (from illness) so I can have a reason to perform.”
The three-session showdown played over 25 frames will take place on Friday afternoon, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning.
For the full World Snooker Championship draw, results, live scores, and session times, click here.
Featured photo credit: WST