World pool goes to the Big Dome

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — NOW more people will get the opportunity to see billiards legend Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes, and the likes of Francisco ‘Django’ Bustamante, Ronnie Alcano, Alex Pagulayan, Earl ‘The Pearl’ Strickland, Wu Chia Ching and Ralf Souquet in action.

From the cozy comforts of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay, the 2007 World Pool Championship moves over to the crowd friendly Araneta Coliseum in Cubao when the 18th edition of the premiere billiards tournament is staged here from Nov. 3 to 11.

Raya Sports president Yen Makabenta said the decision to transfer venue was made in an effort to bring the tournament — and the sport — even closer to the masses, and at the same time, allow more Filipinos to watch world class pool players in the flesh.

“Bringing the world pool championship to the Big Dome allows us to accommodate more Filipino fans and international guests,” Makabenta announced during the official contract signing between Raya Sports and Uniprom Inc., the marketing body of the Araneta Coliseum, yesterday at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza.

“It also opens a whole new world for pool as an international sport,” added Makabenta, who was joined in the event by Uniprom Inc. Chief Operating Officer Manny Atacador.

Alcano, who beat Soquet in the best-of-17 final last year at the PICC to win the world 9-ball crown, is already assured of a slot in the nine-day event featuring the top 128 billiards players in the world, along with Bustamante, 2004 champion Alex Pagulayan, Jeff ‘Bata’ de Luna, Dennis Orcullo, Antonio Lining, Lee Van Corteza, Marlon Manalo, Rodolfo Luat, Ramil Gallego and the ever popular ‘Bata’ Reyes, the 1999 World Pool winner.

Makabenta expects more local pool players to make it to the tournament proper through a series of qualifiers and other top international meets.

“The more Filipino players qualify, the better for our billiards loving people since the Araneta Coliseum can accommodate a much bigger crowd and is accessible to everybody who would want to watch the games live,” said the Raya Sports head.

Inaugurated on March 16, 1960 as venue of the Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde-Harold Gomes fight for the world junior lightweight championship, the Big Dome has hosted countless memorable sports events in the last five decades, among them the historic ‘Thrilla in Manila’ between boxing legends Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, games of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Asia’s longest running pro league, and major boxing bouts of Filipino ring idol Manny Pacquiao.

“We hope the World Pool Championship will become one of those events people will remember whenever the Araneta Coliseum is mentioned,” Makabenta said.

A total of $400,000 in prize money is at stake in this year’s World Pool edition, with the champion receiving $100,000.

Matchroom Sports of the United Kingdom will produce the event in November, with ESPN-Star Sports broadcasting the tournament live to all its channels in Asia.