A 2-day visit to the 40th Dynamic Billiard European Pool Championships
I haven’t been around pool much lately due to a new job and moving to the capital Amsterdam. It’s all great fun, but my cue is getting dusty. So, when I had 2 days off, I just had to go and watch the European Championships in Veldhoven, the Netherlands, and I’m happy I skipped painting walls in my new apartment those two days.
The straight pool, 8-ball, 10-ball, and team event were already over when I arrived. Only two days of 9-ball were left. They told me the team event was amazing, not only because there were 2 Dutch teams playing the final (girls and men division), but also because the arena was loaded with people cheering for their country. Mosconi Cup style.
The 9-ball event
The first person I saw in the arena was my fellow one pocket aficionado Alex Lely who was sleeping in a tent on a camping because of the heat in the rooms in the hotel and greeted me with “Gay banker”. He really had to tell me why, because I couldn’t remember the joke a while ago that we would go to the Derby City Classic in pink outfits as the gay bankers and slow roll those banks in. You probably wonder where that comes from. Well, we used to play bank pool ringgames at Hague 5 on Friday and Saturday nights. Jelle Kijlstra, our local bank pool lover, likes to break the back of the pocket when he’s playing banks. The harder the better. You can read a short profile of the King of Banks in this column on FreddytheBeard.com. When we would get started and someone slow rolled a bank you would hear Jelle, or me, yelling “Gaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy”. An ethical totally irresponsible but innocent joke, especially during the yearly gay pride today here in Amsterdam. My apologies. Directly after that greeting Alex started his match and demolished his opponent 9-2. Great start of the day.
The arena looked amazing. It was a great professional setup for the 40th anniversary of the EC. All different divisions played during this EC (wheelchair/under 17/under19/under23/men/seniors/girls/women/ladies). Cameras were setup everywhere for live streams by Kozoom, a tv-arena for a live broadcast at Ziggo Sport (Dutch national television), and enough seating for people to watch at many different tables at the same time.
After a search for coffee and breakfast I sat down to watch Tara Verharen, daughter of the owners of Hague 5. She’s 13 years-old and this was her first EC. The first thing I noticed was how calm she was. She just did her thing and won that match in 30 minutes, just like the ones before that. She made it to the last 16 in 9-ball, the quarter finals in 10-ball, and 2nd in the girls team event. Great results for a first EC if you ask me. During the rest of the day I watched some other Dutch pool players of which Marc Bijsterbosch and Alex Lely made it to the last 16 single KO in the men division, Jimmy Worung and James Telfer at the seniors, Lynn Pijpers at the girls, Cyriel Ledoux in the under 23, and Jan van Lierop in the under 19. So, there were enough Dutch players to watch the next day and I decided to stay the night. Not only because of the Dutch of course. I also just wanted to see who the new European Champions 9-ball would be and it was pretty surprising and exciting.
Before we get to the new champions, I have to tell you about the Holland House, because it rocked big time thanks to Arno Hartman. The idea was similar to that of the Holland Heineken House at the Olympic games. Holland House was a place in the hotel with a pool table with orange cloth, a 3-cushion billiard table, and one Smart Pool table, which is an inspiring and promising new project of the Dutch Pool Federation KNBB. I’ll tell you more about how they bring pool to school in the Netherlands in another blog post! Keep an eye out. Seriously. They would open everyday at 4 pm and you could play some pool and billiards, lounge, listen to some music, and watch the live streams so you wouldn’t miss anything happening in the arena (connected to the hotel). Melvin Reese was the Holland House DJ and Niels Feijen joined him after winning his seventh 14.1 EC title. Ceremonies for Dutch medalists were also part of the Holland House. I hope they will setup such a thing at every EC in the future to entertain players and spectators visiting the European Championships.
Monday night after all matches finished I went to Holland House. A lovely warm and sunny evening where we had a spontaneous live music show from Rico Diks, ate pizza, drank beer, and had long-time-no-see-chats with Alex Lely, Johan Ruysink, Alex Grünewald my former youth coach, Joshua and Pia Filler, Tommi Lamminaho coach of team Finland, and some others. After all that it was time for some banks. Couldn’t help myself. Together with Rico Diks I set up a ringgame with Steven Verharen, owner of Hague 5 and father of Tara, Tim De Ruyter who was playing for team NL, and some other fellas from Italy, Croatia, and some others I wasn’t familiar with. Rico managed to win the first one. I won the second, and Tim De Ruyter the third. Kind of a Dutch victory in Holland House. Marcus Chamat even joined the last ringgame, but was out first. At 2.30 am Arno decided it was time to close Holland House and we all went to bed because we had to be proper supporters at 9 am again.
Surprising final day
Tired but happy I was enjoying the matches on the final day. I was excited to finally see top players such as Albin Ouschan, Joshua Filler, Fedor Gorst, Ralf Souqet, and so on, in action again. None of them reached the final though. It was the Bulgarian Stanimir Ruslanov, who I’ve personally never heard of before, who played outstanding matches and made his way through the though field to meet Polish Konrad Juszczyszyn in the final. Konrad eventually took the trophy with a 9-7 win on live television.
Then there was Jan van Lierop who made it to the 3rd place in the under 19 division and Jimmy Worung from the Netherlands who made his dream come true by winning the Seniors division. His last few shots were also live on television. How great is that?! Congrats to all!
After the ceremonies the barbecue started with a few hundred people and live music acts to officially close the 40th EC. It was a blast.
When I ran into Ruslan Chinakhov during the barbecue he asked me, with a surprised look on his face, why the hell I was there and didn’t play. He wasn’t the only one. After everybody finished their food, did their dancing and had their drinks it was time to go home. It was then when I felt a strong feeling of excitement and craving to participate again in such events full of success, failure, celebrations, and pain. That wasn’t part of the plan. Who knows…