South Africa

SA’s pool champ is sticking it to the competition

2017-11-19 06:10
ON CUE: Wetsi Morake won the 2008 World Championship and more titles than he can remember. (Silver Sibiya)
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Hein van Staden started playing pool when he was seven. Having become a world champion, he’s now passing the skill on to the next generation.

Johannesburg - When the Morake family bought a pool table for their restaurant, little did 11-year-old Wetsi know it was the beginning of his journey to world stardom.

“I started playing pool when I was in Standard 2 [Grade 4] in 1993,” he recently recounted.

“At home, there was a restaurant, my mother Minah managed to get the pool table and I ended up playing every time after school".

Later, his brother Prince helped him sharpen his skills because he was already involved with the sport.

World title

Morake said during this time he was moving from club to club scooping awards. After winning the Soweto Open in 2007, his fortunes grew.

“I won the world title in 2008, three African titles (2009, 2015 and 2016) and six South African titles (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2010). I can’t even remember some of the titles I have won,” he boasts.

He won some of these titles when he was a junior at Under-18 and Under-23 levels.

In 2011, he won the Africa vs Europe Singles Championships in Ireland.

Morake says he is still the only person to have won the continental title and the world title.

“If you look at the SA Confederation of Cue Sport profile, we have a rich history compared with other sports. If you can bring in the cricket profile, Bafana Bafana’s and rugby’s you can’t compare them.

“But we are overlooked. Even the trophies we win don’t come with much monetary value".

More sponsors

In 2007, he got involved in the administrative side of the sport to help improve its reach.

“I got involved with the administration of the sport because we would always play in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, but I said why don’t they come to our area [Soweto]".

He helped form the Soweto Pool Association, a not-for-profit organisation which develops and administers league structures.

The organisation is celebrating its 10th anniversary, which coincides with the commemoration of the life of one of its fallen heroes, France Mathe, who was a two-time South African Open champion.

The 35-year-old’s wish is to see more sponsors come to the pool party.

He hopes to get personal sponsors to continue his passion.

“When I won my world championship, I did not get any financial rewards, but locally we get R5 000 and some tournaments pay R10 000".

He was crowned the 2017 SA Chinese 8 Ball Champion at the Arnold Classic Africa Championships in Johannesburg and qualified to travel to China for the World Masters Championships. This event will be held early next year.

The Arnold Classic is hosted by Hollywood superstar and former bodybuilding world champion Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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