A Dream Come True Says Barry Hearn

The renowned chairman and founder of Matchroom Sport which is one of the biggest and most successful promotions outfits and event organizers in the world says that to be at last staging the World Pool Championship in Manila "is a bit of a dream come true."

In an email to Viva Sports/Manila Standard Today Hearn paid tribute to the "faith and commitment" of Yen Makabenta at Prism Communications who Hearn said was instrumental in all this happening.

Hearn said that since the nineties Matchroom Sport has had "the master cuemen of the Philippines contesting our pool events" and over a period of time he said we have "come to appreciate their myriad skills and flair." Hearn noted that the great Efren "Bata" Reyes won the World Pool Championship the first time it was under the promotional umbrella of Matchroom Sport in Cardiff in 1999. He also referred to Francisco "Django" Bustamante's "emotional near miss in 2002 and the subsequent emergence of a new generation of stars" like "Marvelous" Marlon Manalo and Dennis Orcollo.

Hearn pointed to the great benefits of bringing the event to Manila which means that every player in the Philippines will have a chance to compete via the qualifying event even as he noted that rising young stars like Jeff De Luna and Roland Garcia have already made it. The Matchroom Sport CEO said that for many the Philippines is the spiritual home of the modern game adding, "I hope the event will herald a nine-day party across the country. I don't know what the contingency plan will be if a local player wins but if they do, hang on to your hats."

In the opening round robin phase the 128 players have been divided into 32 groups of four players each with the top two advancing to the next round. All matches will be a race to eight alternate break with two points for a win.

Reyes was drawn in Group 2 along with Radioslaw Babica, the talented young Polish player, Tony Crosby of the US and Roy Apancho of Indonesia. 2004 World Pool Champion Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan heads Group 4 along with Li He Wen of China, Lee Kun Fang of Taipei and Gustavo Espinosa of Argentina. Manalo is in Group 5 with Mike Davis of the US, Fu Che We of Taipei and Nicolas Guimond of Canada.

Bustamante leads Group 10 which has the dangerous Darren Appelton of England, Charles Bryant of the US and Prince Haji Billah of Brunei. Ronnie Alcano who is making waves on the Blaze Tour in America is grouped with Christian Reimering of Germany, Marcus Matens of the Netherlands and Luong Chi Dung of Vietnam while veteran Jose "Amang" Parica is with Shawn Putnam of the US, Ricky Yang of Indonesia and Pat Holtz of Scotland.

Other Filipinos in the competition are Orcollo who is drawn with England's snooker ace Steve Davis, Thanh Nam Nguyen of Vietnam and Dave Reljic of Australia, Rodolfo Liat. Gandy Valle, Ramil Gallego, de Luna and Garcia.