Danny Willemse still carrying snooker’s torchlight
As a pool and billiards enthusiast, Danny Willemse has seen the highs and lows of the sport in Namibia.
He is the founding member of the Young Ones Pool Club, one of the biggest pool clubs in Namibia and initiator of the Trio Pool Club Championships. Closing in on 14 years of pool has not always been a breeze for Willemse, but a journey that he believes has certainly been worth it.
“I was a midfield and attacking player for Young Ones football club. I played for them for a decade, from 1986 to 1996, but during my last year, I tore my muscles and could no longer play,” recalls the 34 year old. He adds, “As we got older, a few of us were sitting around the clubhouse and decided to start a pool club.”
In 2001, long with Otto Hansen, Roger Avrin Kloppers, Johnny Danny, Robin Quinton Willemse, Isak Ventura, Jan van Wyk, George Raffie and Pekka van Schalkwyk, he established YOPC.
During that time, the team played under the Namibia Pool Association (NPA) which eventually closed down.
In 2006 YOPC began to play games against Dest Inn Pool Club (DITC) of Walvis Bay, along with the help of Charles (Backieman) Mellani.
“Later that year, we broke away from the NPA as they were not having AGMs and were not releasing their financial statements,” says Willemse.
With that, they established a national pool league in 2013 and since then have managed to get in Rehoboth pool club, Windhoek office pool club, Khomas tornadoes pool club, Celtic pool club from Swakopmund and last year were joined by Rundu pool club.
In that time, DITC has won twice while YOPC has also won the same amount.
“The sport is growing. The clubs have their own leagues, and the best players go on to compete for the national crown. There are a lot of youngsters joining up and we are looking for teams in Oshakati and Ondangwa,” says Willemse.
Willemse who functions as a public relations officer (PRO) for new Namibia Pool and Billiards Federation (NPBF) and also vice chairman of YOPC says that NPBF would like to have more than five regions having active pool leagues.
NPBF has not yet registered with the Namibian sports commission, but Willemse says he hopes to have this wrapped up by 2016 so they can establish a Namibian team to compete beyond borders.
Willemse says has won seven YOPC leagues from the 14 years he has taken part. His last title was in 2010 and says after getting married, he somewhat disappeared from the competitive pool scene. A family problem further complicated his activity, but he says he is now ready to reclaim his crown.
“They wanted to make me the chairman of the YOPC, but I wanted to spend more time with my wife. It’s difficult when you are newlyweds, but I am getting back into the groove of things,” he says.
Willemse says the biggest highlight of his career came in 2007 when he won the YOPC league without losing a single game. Another came in 2011 when YOPC won the Namibia Billiards/Snooker Association (NBSA) trophy and was named player of the tournament.
One of the challenges locally, Willemse says he has witnessed is alcohol abuse among the youth. “Because snooker tables are mostly found in bars, that’s where we host our tournaments. So when we have younger players competing, they think it’s about drinking and partying than a sport,” he says further adding, “but most of the senior players have been working to chance this mindset within the youth. The tournaments are well organised and no participants drink, but the spectators do.”
Willemse says he has been grateful for support he has received over the years, such as Charles Mellani who helped found the NPBF. Mellani suffered a heart attack in July last year but has been recovering and is well on his way to returning to the sport.
by Andreas Kathindi