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October 31, 2020

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Arms no issue for Pakistani snooker player

Mohammad Ikram leans over the snooker table, his face at almost touching distance behind the white ball as he assesses his options, before knocking it with his bearded chin.

At the other end of the table a moment later, a red ball sinks into the corner pocket.

With a twist of the neck this way, or a lighter nudge another, the 32-year-old Ikram has worked out how to pot snooker balls without the use of a snooker cue.

He was born without arms. He lives in a dusty rural town in the northeast of Pakistan in Punjab Province. He hasn’t let anything stop him from fulfilling his childhood dream of playing the game of snooker.

Ikram remembers watching other children playing on dusty pool tables outside his home when he was a 10-year-old kid. He always wished one day he could also play the game, but just needed to work out how.

“At that time I wished I had arms so that I could play the game, too,” Ikram said.

Eventually he devised his own style and later went to a nearby club, looking for a game.

“People didn’t believe me in the club that I could play with my chin,” he said. “But they gradually started admiring my skills when I started hitting the cue ball with the chin.”

Mohammad Nadeem, owner of the Cue Club in Samundri, recalled the time about 11 or 12 years ago when Ikram approached him with a request to play snooker.

“I told him ‘no you cannot do this,’” Nadeem said.

“It’s a good thing Ikram didn’t take no for an answer. When he first hit the ball with his chin, it simply amazed me because it was as good as any other snooker player could have hit it with cue in hand.”

So Ikram started making the 12-kilomoter daily trip to the club, where he plays on the seven snooker tables.

Ikram has won at least three local tournaments and his popularity is growing fast — not only in his hometown but also across Pakistan, mainly because of media attention.

Ikram, who has two younger brothers and five younger sisters, holds a special place in his mother’s heart.

“I don’t go out and watch him play but his father has seen him playing and we are happy for him,” Ikram’s mother, Razia Bibi, said.

“We used to say that had he got arms, he would have been very happy. But now the whole world will be happy when they see him playing,” she added.

Ikram said he wanted to show off his snooker skills abroad and was hoping to get some support from the government and Prime Minister Imran Khan, the former cricket star who led the Pakistan team to victory in the 1992 World Cup. “I wish, I could go abroad and play in front of other people and bring fame to Pakistan,” Ikram said, as he rested his right leg on the table, flexed his neck and yet again hit the cue ball with his chin and potted a red ball in the long pocket.


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