Snooker’s growing global appeal has accelerated at a swift pace over the past decade. As a result, previously unheralded territories have been welcomed into the sport’s community.
One region that is beginning its snooker journey appears to be in and around Central America, with influential cuesports enthusiast Junior Umaña Alvarado recently appointed to the Pan American Billiards and Snooker Association (PABSA) as its Latin American Co-Ordinator.
Having played and coached pool for several years, Alvarado was later introduced to snooker and has since spread the word of the sport in his home country of Costa Rica and beyond. His passion and drive for cuesports is remarkable; he has been successful in receiving funding from his government to educate players, and he founded the ‘Asociación Deportiva de Billar Americano’ which was recognised and accepted by PABSA last year. Amongst over things, the association organises charity events that help elderly people with incurable diseases.
Alvarado also runs a YouTube show titled ‘Snooker, Famosos y Más’ that combines snooker, Costa Rican celebrities and other topics such as entertainment and science, which he has a significant background in.
We spoke to Junior about his journey to date and his future plans for snooker in the emerging region…
Hello Junior. Thank you for talking to us. I understand you have been involved with cuesports for quite a while. Pool has an established community in your region, so how did you come across snooker?
I started out playing pool and at the time found it to be the best sport on Earth. I discovered and appreciated the scientific side of it and thought that it must be taught in high schools and universities. Against all odds, after working four years with scientists, I got an administrative decree from the Ministry of Public Education to teach pool.
I came across snooker in 2016 when my late pool playing partner Tulio Fernandez bought a table. Because I love challenges, very soon I spent a lot of time on it and learnt a lot. I quickly understood that pool was not the best sport on Earth…
What is the current snooker scene in Costa Rica and Latin America like? Can you tell us about the work you have put in and what you have achieved so far?
Previously very few people spoke about snooker in Latin America. However, through my promotional work including my YouTube channel, we have several countries that are interested to join Costa Rica in running the first snooker leagues in the region very soon. Honduras, Colombia, Uruguay and El Salvador are preparing to be a part of PABSA and hopefully Argentina, Belize, Guatemala, Panama and Venezuela will also be part of PABSA next year.
I already have more than 80 players waiting for the Costa Rica Snooker League to start. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus restrictions we have been unable to – despite people stopping me on the street asking when it will begin! I have also been working very hard every day speaking to the government and private institutions in order to secure investment for the concept.
I understand that you have the backing of several well-known names in Costa Rica who have been involved with your cuesports work in the region and appeared on your YouTube channel.
I have the support of many famous people here in Costa Rica – some of whom are friends of mine that participate in my pool events. They are also keen to learn more about snooker and want to get involved in the future. One of my country’s all-time most famous footballers – Walter Centeno Corea – supports me and my Facebook and YouTube programs. With their endorsements and inclusion, it will help boost the profile of snooker throughout the Latin America region.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your new role with PABSA and what it involves?
My role with PABSA is very simple – I promote snooker in all Latin America. I have created contacts and relationships with fellow officials across the region who trust and believe in me because of my achievements such as my high schools teaching decree initiative.
We participate and keep in touch via a WhatsApp group where they ask me questions about snooker and its organisation. I explain to them that snooker is a huge sport, it can offer them so much and there are many possibilities to grow.
Besides what you have already mentioned, what are your other short-term hopes for Costa Rican / Latin American snooker?
Following discussions with Ajeya Prabhakar (PABSA President) there are possibilities of hosting an Open tournament and the Pan American Junior Snooker Championships in Costa Rica in the future. I have the support of the National Tourism Association and the Costa Rican Tourism Bureau for these.
The national association would also like to open its own facility – we are seeking funds for this, but every day I am getting closer.
Article by Michael Day.