Filipinos Favored in World Pool Championships

The hometown advantage is expected to favor Filipino pool players in the 2006 World Pool Championships scheduled to be staged in Manila this November.

Since they don't have to bear the cost of travel to Cardiff of Chinese-Taipei where the previous championships were held and bother about the necessary visas, scores of Filipinos led by legends Efren 'Bata' Reyes, Francisco 'Django' Bustamante, Alex 'The Lion' Pagulayan and rising star 'Marvelous' Marlon Manalo are expected to make it to the knockout round of 64, surpassing the number of Taiwanese who qualified in Kaohsiung last year.

Viva Sports/Manila Standard Today which broke the story on Manila's hosting of the prestigious tournament for the first time has learned that Matchroom Sport has decided to double the qualifying groups from the usual 16 with 8 players in each group to 32 but with only four players in each group.

In the past four of the top players in each group qualified for the tournament proper but this time only two from each group will qualify. It will also be a race to eight rather than a race to five which often resulted in skilled pool players being ousted by less talented players who got lucky.

The top prize in the $400,000 tournament will be $100,000. When Reyes won the title in 1999 in Cardiff and Pagulayan won in Taipei in 2004, the top prize was $65,000. ESPN Star Sports, regarded as the worldwide leader in sports will once again provide extensive coverage of the tournament. There will also be a Philippine coverage component.

Details of the agreement between the Manila hosts and Matchroom Sport and ESPN Star Sports are being finalized and a press conference to formally announce Manila's hosting of the World Pool Champinship is expected to be held sometime before Holy Week.

Reyes said the staging of the World Pool Championships in Manila was welcome news both for Filipino pool players and fans in the country which is considered the hotbed of pool. The tournament site has not been decided upon as yet but among the venues being considered are the PICC, the World Trade Center and the Mall of Asia. A decision will be made after the sites are inspected by Matchroom chairman, British millionaire Barry Hearn, his media director Luke Riches and officials from ESPN Star Sports.