Scottish snooker star Stephen Hendry is surrounded by Chinese fans and media as he arrives in Beijing for a Chinese 8-ball exhibition game on Wednesday. Hendry has been invited to be the global ambassador for Chinese 8-ball and help promote the game to the world. Provided to China Daily
One of the greatest players in snooker history, Stephen Hendry now has a new role - that of global ambassador for Chinese pool and billiards.
The seven-time snooker world champion signed an agreement on Wednesday with the Joy Chinese Pool Sports Development Co Ltd to promote Chinese pool, an 8-ball game, which combines the precision of snooker and the flexibility of nine-ball billiards.
"My mission is to promote the development of Chinese pool across the whole world. This is not only a great honor for me but also a brand new start for my career," Hendry said at the signing ceremony in Beijing.
Snooker and nine-ball have been developing rapidly at home and abroad in recent years thanks to rising Chinese stars like Ding Junhui and women's world champions Liu Shasha, Fu Xiaofang and Pan Xiaoting.
But Chinese 8-ball (usually called Black-8), which is traditionally played by most pool fans here, is still struggling to gain a higher status on the international stage.
Hendry's endorsement is expected to give the game a much-needed boost.
Hendry, nicknamed the "Emperor of Snooker" by fans for his record haul of titles and brilliant talent, said he has known about Chinese 8-ball for some time, but his real understanding of the game came only after talks with Qiao Bing, director of the Joy Chinese Pool Sports Development Co Ltd.
"I have come to know that this game with strong Chinese characteristics has become the most popular one among the Chinese people," said the 43-year-old Scot.
Hendry was snooker's world No 1 for eight consecutive years between 1990 and 1998, but his current world ranking has fallen out of the top 20.
"My professional snooker career has almost come to an end. But I am more of a lover of billiards than only a snooker player. Over 30 years of professional playing, I have already formed a special love for billiards, which goes beyond the categories of billiards and national borders. Chinese pool is one of the most important ones for me from now on," said Hendry.
"I am convinced that Chinese (8-ball) pool will have a promising future and the thought of working together with Joy to create another miracle in the billiard field makes me thrilled."
Without giving details about the deal, Hendry promised he will attend major events and activities to promote Chinese pool.
"I would also like to introduce this charming billiards game to my friends because from today on, I am the Goodwill Ambassador of Chinese pool. I am proud of that!" he said.
Hendry started his new role earlier this week when he played in two Chinese pool exhibition games in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, and Beijing.