Professional snooker is a game dominated by white males. Black Muslim revert Rory McLeod is the only person of colour and the only Muslim to play in the pro ranks.
With a week off work, The Akh has been able to work on the car, motorbike, do the gardening, strip the wallpaper, replaster and rewallpaper the kitchen. Inbetween all that The Akh has managed (like all builders do) with a cup of tea in hand to watch a bit of snooker.
With the the Masters 2011 tournament on, The Akh has never seen anyone of any colour play the game, sure we have a few Chinese, but never any blacks or asians, so when I saw Rory McLeod (A black man with a more typical scottish name you could never find) and a beard, I wondered to myself, “no one grows a beard like that for fashion, maybe he’s a Muslim?”
So a few clicks away and thanks to the sheikh google, I found what I was looking for.
Yes Rory McLeod is a Muslim, and is still the only black professional on the circuit, and was the first and only to appear at this prestigious event, just as he was at the World Championships.
McLeod became a Muslim 10 years ago and is frequently seen listening to verses from the Koran on his iPod, adding:
“It helps calm me down, I find there are no better words or speech than that to help put me in the right state of mind.”
And does the father-of-three feel any extra pressure, given his pioneering status? McLeod adds:
“I used to worry about it a lot more than I do now, and that is partly down to my faith. I have plenty to be grateful for, I am looking forward to Wembley and, God willing, I can play well and do myself justice.”
For me snooker has been a game played in smoky pubs and back alley clubs, which most Muslims wouldn’t enter, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that 99.9% of pro snooker players are white men.
So what’s the answer?
It’s certainly not the lack of skills
McLeod admits that he has had his “fair share” of racist comments during his career, adding:
“It has been hard being the only black player on the circuit. I’m not treated any differently by the other players, but I have had some stupid comments from time to time. If I was to say that there is no racism out there I’d be lying, because there is. People are racist, how much is another thing. There is racism on this planet.”
What is sad is that rather then promoting a man that is making serious inroads into a whats seen as a “white’s only” sport, he has been passed over and now spends much of his year in Qatar coaching the national snooker team to supplement often slim pickings.
“I used to practise at the Academy when it was in Rushden and before it moved to Sheffield. One time, 22 players from Qatar were over, and I was the only player in the building. I got to know them well, and then they offered me work there. I’ve semi-moved out there now, it’s been 25 degrees this week, so London will be a shock.”
The Akh salutes the brother Rory and wishes him much success both on the snooker circuit and away from the game.