Snooker comes to Sarajevo

Sarajevo Snooker Play-offs: Setup with several tables, Rory McLeod playing.
Set-up during the Q-Tour playoffs. Rory McLeod at the table. © Farah Karaman

Over the past eleven days, Bosnian audiences have had their first chance to watch top-quality snooker in the capital of Sarajevo. Hotel Hills Ilidža was the scene of the Q Tour Global Play-Offs, one of the tournaments offering professional tour cards ultimately won by Duane Jones, Amir Sarkosh, and Mohammed Shehab, as well as the European Championships in four different age groups. An article by our guest author Farah.

An unprecedented event

Snooker fans in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not typically have opportunities to watch live matches, barring the local league. I can vaguely remember promises of exhibition matches being held here almost ten years ago, but nothing has ever come of that. Some central European capitals had previously brought snooker stars closer to our audience, and fans including myself took the chance and travelled to the likes of Ljubljana, Budapest, and Vienna to personally experience what we got accustomed to on our television sets. Indeed, it is difficult to find a Sarajevan who is not familiar with snooker and at least the top players, particularly those of the older generations.

Sarajevo: Centre of amateur snooker for two weeks

The announcement of these tournaments coming to Sarajevo was surprising to say the least. This city is not usually on the radar for international sports and cultural events. However, outside the snooker bubble not much effort was made to publicize the tournaments beforehand. If I weren’t connected to snooker accounts on social media, I doubt I would have found out they were happening even a day prior to the start.

Thankfully, the coverage in local media outlets increased once the play started. Naturally, the biggest star in the headlines was Mark Williams, despite not being the one competing in any of the tournaments. The legendary Welshman visited Sarajevo with his son Joel who participated in the U16 event, and his visit itself was a big deal for the local news agencies. He made the news again by complimenting the organization of the European. And finally, he made the news by experiencing his first earthquake and baffling everyone with the hashtag he used in the tweet.

Local heroes

The European Championships attracted lots of local players, most of them from clubs in Sarajevo and Bugojno. Among the 15 Bosnian representatives Adel Kalabušić from Union Jack Sarajevo was the closest to reaching the knock-out phase, narrowly missing out due to the frame difference. Despite that, all the wins our players achieved are a big success and the experience will certainly help them moving forward.

The final of the main event between Robbie McGuigan and Craig Steadman was broadcast on Arena Sport, one of the region’s biggest sports channels. The referee in charge was Almedin Hodžić. He is the only Bosnian EBSA-certified referee currently at Class 2 level, also a popular figure in the local community, tirelessly working on promoting the sport and educating future officials. Mario-Željo Milošević was the commentator for the match, a seven-time champion of Bosnia and Herzegovina who had also previously participated in the Championships and achieved a win in the group stage. You can watch the final on YouTube with English commentary. McGuigan won the title and a two-year tour card.

The success of our players would have never been possible without the late, great Zijad Redžić Zizi, the owner of the first snooker club in Sarajevo, Union Jack, our beloved coach and great friend not only to those interested in snooker, but to virtually everyone in the city. He sadly lost his battle with cancer in March 2022. The European Billiards and Snooker Association posted a touching tribute to one of the true legends of Sarajevo, the universally beloved man who is single-handedly responsible for the popularization of snooker in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sarajevo Snooker Screenshot Facebook post which is linked

Click the picture to access the Facebook post.

Good omens

Bosnia and Herzegovina is not the only Balkan country that hosted a significant snooker tournament during this season. The WSF Championships and the Albanian Women’s Open were held in Golem, Albania, also attracting a large number of top snooker players. Events like these never fail to bring in many players from the region due to the convenience of not having to travel too far and spend too much in order to gain experience. Not to mention the hassle of, for example, getting a visa for the UK if you’re a player from Bosnia. The spread of snooker through continental Europe is certainly getting more traction with the events advancing further south.

From a personal perspective, the events held in Sarajevo were a huge success. Play on 16 tables simultaneously went without a hitch, except for the odd scoreboard issue. Although the audience mostly consisted of players waiting for their turn and members of their teams, there were locals popping in and out of matches, enjoying the occasion. I also appreciated the live streams, for when I couldn’t be there in person, as well as for people watching from other parts of the globe. I truly hope this results in more tournaments being held here or in other Balkan countries.


The team of SnookerPRO want to thank Farah for her contribution to our blog. She is also a valuable team member of snooker.org, providing livescoring for main tour and amateur events.

Dieser Artikel wurde von Gastautor*in Farah verfasst und spiegelt nicht die Meinung der SnookerPRO-Redaktion wider. Interesse auch auf SnookerPRO.de zu veröffentlichen? Alle Infos hierzu gibt es auf unserer Mitmachen-Seite.

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