‘Snooker is a lot like life. It’s a game where emotion interferes, where nervousness interferes, where provocation interferes.’ This quote comes not from some mystical religious guru, but from Toquinho, former guitar maestro of bossa nova king Vinicius de Moraes and virtual poster-boy for Brazilian snooker.
The legendary musician waxed lyrical during a regular Monday session at the Tati Snooker club in Itaim Bibi. ‘You can tell when someone is calm because they have a better cue action. You need to have control of the weight of the ball. Fury doesn’t help anything. Hitting the ball hard is like an emotional explosion. It’s like when you have a row with someone and then regret it. So snooker has a lot to do with calmness, skill and experience – the same qualities you need in life to have balance,’ he concludes, sinking a black with aplomb.
Toquinho is not the only one enchanted by the lure of the green baize. Snooker (sinuca in Portuguese) is on the up in Brazil. The first professional tournament to be staged in South America, the Brazilian Masters, brought the cream of the game’s elite over here for the first time this past October. Brazil’s finest, Igor Figueiredo, came in an impressive sixth, with the second best break of the tournament, 114. ‘Igor has put us on the world stage,’ says fellow professional Ronald Carneiro, who trains at Tati along with Figueiredo. Dressed in a T-shirt that bears the symbol of man’s evolution from stooped caveman to stooped cue man, Carneiro has being potting the reds ever since his father introduced him to the world’s most pedestrian sport. ‘I used to be a basketball player,’ he laughs.
But, hold on a minute, which game are we talking about here? Confusingly, sinuca generally refers to a game played with seven balls on a pool-sized table. Snooker, as the rest of the world knows it, is regra inglesa – English rules. ‘It’s all changed in 2011. Now we play international rules on a regulation twelve-foot by six-foot table,’ says Carneiro, who plays for Democrático do Ypiranga. Toquinho’s not impressed. ‘English rules is too slow, lots of defensive play. Seven-balls is more dynamic. I don’t have the patience, I want to start potting balls!’ After the 12th Campeanato Brasileiro de Sinuca in December 2011, the snooker calendar rolls on for white-gloved refs, coughing audiences and intense young men in waistcoats. December also saw the Copa Sul in Curitiba (noelsnooker.com.br) and in January 2012, São Paulo hosts 150 of the country’s best players in the state’s biggest championship, the Federação Paulista de Sinuca e Bilhar (5181 0636, fpsb.com.br).
Tati Snooker, founded 40 years ago, is the hub for budding pros, but there’s plenty of room for enthusiastic amateurs like Toquinho. The place hums to the sweet symphony of the ‘clack’ of balls and the ‘kedunk’ of a fine pot. So, is there a link between music and snooker? ‘Oh yes. Music is totally mathematical. Its structure allows you to improvise, to get inspired. And this … well, this is pure geometry,’ Toquinho gushes.
Where to play snooker in São Paulo
Tati Snooker Avenida Santo Amaro 1308, Vila Nova Conceição, 3044 5325, tatisnooker.com.br
Pompeia Snooker Bar Avenida Pompeia 553, Pompeia, 3803 9072, snookerpompeia.com.br
Atlanta Snooker Bar Rua Faustolo 434, Lapa, 3871 1632, atlantasnookerbar.com.br