Neil Robertson
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Neil Robertson defends Hossein Vafaei: ‘He has it the hardest on tour’

Neil Robertson has come to the defense of Hossein Vafaei after controversial comments made by the Iranian this week.

The latter’s rant towards the facilities at the Crucible Theatre has generated plenty of headlines during the first few days of the 2024 World Snooker Championship.

Vafaei vented his frustrations at the host venue in the immediate aftermath of his 10-5 defeat to Judd Trump on Sunday in Sheffield.

“Everything is so bad,” Hossein Vafaei said. “If you ask me if I want to come back here, I would tell you no way.”

“Forget the history. You want to go somewhere really nice as a player. You walk round the Crucible and it smells really bad.

“You go to other countries, and everything is shiny. But here it’s completely different. The practice room – do you see anything special?

“I feel like I’m practicing in a garage.”

Several esteemed players from past and present have criticised Vafaei in the last couple of days, including Jimmy White, Alan McManus, and Shaun Murphy.

But Australia’s Robertson, who is widely regarded as the best overseas player ever in what has traditionally been a UK-centric sport, came to the world number 19’s defense.

“Some of the comments towards what Hossein Vafaei said regarding the Crucible, which are all true (maybe not the smell part) is really disappointing,” Neil Robertson wrote on X.

“We’ve seen far worse comments from British based players about the same venue and others that were laughed off or swept under the carpet by those who put their boot into him.”

“This is a guy by the way who I’ve seen play matches with no sleep for 30 hours because he’s had to travel through multiple different countries just to get a visa in time.

“He has it the hardest on tour by a mile.”

The whole situation has gained traction on the back of a wider debate on whether or not the Crucible Theatre is a suitable venue for the World Snooker Championship in the modern sporting environment.

The prestigious competition is contracted to stay at the venue until 2027, but beyond that its future is uncertain.

Moving the tournament to China has long been touted as a possibility, while Riyadh Season’s rising involvement within the game has increased the likelihood that the World Championship could eventually move to Saudi Arabia.

Robertson, who won the world title in 2010 but has generally struggled to replicate his best form at the Crucible, has previously expressed his frustrations with the arena.

“I think we have to be careful of tradition,” the former world number one, who lost on Judgement Day this year, said in 2022.

“There are a lot of sports that have suffered because of that and been too stubborn to move on.”

“The one table set-up is really special. But there’s definitely room for improvement in the two-table set-up.”

2024 World Snooker Championship Draw

Round 1 (bo19)

Luca Brecel (1) 9-10 David Gilbert
Robert Milkins (16) 10-9 Pang Junxu
Ali Carter (9) 7-10 Stephen Maguire
Shaun Murphy (8) 10-5 Lyu Haotian

Mark Selby (5) 6-10 Joe O’Connor
Kyren Wilson (12) 10-1 Dominic Dale
John Higgins (13) 10-6 Jamie Jones
Mark Allen (4) 10-6 Robbie Williams

Judd Trump (3) 10-5 Hossein Vafaei
Tom Ford (14) 10-6 Ricky Walden
Zhang Anda (11) 4-10 Jak Jones
Mark Williams (6) 9-10 Si Jiahui

Ding Junhui (7) 9-10 Jack Lisowski
Gary Wilson (10) 5-10 Stuart Bingham
Barry Hawkins (15) 8-10 Ryan Day
Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) 10-1 Jackson Page

Round 2 (bo25)

David Gilbert 13-4 Robert Milkins (16)
Stephen Maguire 13-9 Shaun Murphy (8)

Joe O’Connor 6-13 Kyren Wilson (12)
John Higgins (13) 13-12 Mark Allen (4)

Judd Trump (3) 13-7 Tom Ford (14)
Jak Jones 13-9 Si Jiahui

Jack Lisowski 11-13 Stuart Bingham
Ryan Day 7-13 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)

Quarter-Finals (bo25)

David Gilbert 13-8 Stephen Maguire
Kyren Wilson (12) 13-8 John Higgins (13)

Judd Trump (3) 9-13 Jak Jones
Stuart Bingham 13-10 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)

Semi-Finals (bo33)

David Gilbert 11-17 Kyren Wilson (12)
Jak Jones 17-12 Stuart Bingham

Final (bo35)

Kyren Wilson (12) 18-14 Jak Jones

Click here for the latest live scores and session times.

Featured photo credit: WST

One Comment

  1. Jay Brannon

    Mark Williams got booed by some when he slagged the Crucible off. Robertson is wrong to infer xenophobia. I have the utmost respect for the travails a non-British player encounters. The one table setup being challenging is something that shouldn’t be easy. Getting to the two table setup is a reward.

    A pity Robertson couldn’t make it to work with the BBC due to his ill dog, who I hope gets better.

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