Snooker and Table Tennis (or Ping Pong)
Snooker is probably more widely played in homes, holiday venues and bars than anywhere else here in France. Clubs are few and far between but the move to create more is growing thanks to La Fédération Française de Billard (FFB).
On the professional circuit, although French players compete in world tournaments, French professional snooker is lagging behind the UK, China, Thailand, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Poland. In fact, the last time that France hosted a ranking pro tournament was in the 1988/89 European Open during the European Masters.
That said, the French team of Jérémy Bury, Brian Ochoiski and Fabio Rizzi took third place in the 2019 World Team Trophy in Paris earlier this year, and Alexis Callewaert won gold at the Snooker 6 Reds European Championships for the first time in the history of French ranking records.
On the rise
Despite its global popularity the game of snooker has, until now, been struggling to develop in France. As a result of FFB initiatives, this is starting to change and there are now regional competitions leading up to the finals of the Championnats de France, including championships for women, in preparation for the world stage.
As well as additional venues and coaches, it is hoped that more snooker courses (stages) will follow, allowing players to improve their techniques, tactics, mental attitude and even nutrition. With long games, which can be the best of nine, 17 or 19 in tournament finals, and up to 35 frames in world championships, stamina is a main requirement, as well as the ability to create opportunities and maximise them.
Making the break
Behind every game, or frame as it is known, is the desire to make the best break during a single visit to the table, the maximum of which is a score of 147 points. This is when a red ball is potted, followed by a colour of the player’s choice (which, if potted, is then placed back on its starting position), then another read, another colour etc., until all the reds have been potted. At that point the coloured balls, which are no longer returned to the table, must be potted in the order of value. As and when a player misses a shot/pot, the play passes to his/her opponent. The player with the highest score wins the frame.
In addition, there are various fouls which award points to opponents such as when potting the white (cue ball) or hitting a coloured instead of a red because your opponent has left you no legal ball to play and you have been well and truly snookered.
Colours and values
Rouge (red) : un point
Jaune (yellow) : deux points
Vert (green) : trois points
Marron (brown) : quatre points
Bleu (blue) : cinq points
Rose (pink) : six points
Noir (black) : sept points
Whilst the bid was turned down for the 2020 event, we are still waiting to see if snooker will be played at the 2024 Summer Olympics. Meanwhile, extensive television coverage ensures that we can continue to enjoy the run up to the World Championships next year with the first prestigious Triple Crown event, the Betway UK Championship from 26 November to 8 December, followed by the Masters over the coming months.
So, will it be snooker or table tennis?
Originating in the 1800’s when the upper classes would strike a champagne cork or golf ball with a book across the dining table divided by a pile of books in a game of “Whiff- Whaff”, the Ping Pong (PP) game was trademarked by the London games company, J Jaques & Son, in 1901. Derived from the sound made by the ball rebounding off the racquets, the amusing title helped to spread its fame, quickly spreading across the UK, America and the rest of the world.
In 1926, the Table Tennis (TT) name was trademarked by the International Table Tennis Federation and the game became an official sport for two or four players.
An Olympic event since 1988, when played at the national and international level the competitive game of TT is particularly exciting and exhilarating to watch, and exhausting for the players. Rallies, or Lets as they are known, require dexterity, lightning fast reactions and quick feet. The often not quite so competitive TT/PP version between families, friends and social clubs offers a more fun, carefree activity that can be played indoors or out.
The standard equipment includes a table (fixed, folding, or moveable with wheels), the net, hollow balls and a bat, paddle or racquet. The type of racquet is important, with certain finishes giving slow to medium spin and speed and others, which can also be customised, allowing increased spin and a faster pace.
Practice is essential and a robot practice partner is ideal for clubs and keen players. Despatching a range of serve sequences as well as top, back, side spin and float combinations, it can also be programmed for long and short ball shots at different angles.
Table Tennis in France
Although Japan, China, Hungary and Scandinavian countries dominate the World Table Tennis Championships, France took gold in the men’s singles in 1993 with Jean-Philippe Gatien and, in 1977, Jacques Secrétin and Claude Bergeret won the mixed doubles.
Interestingly, the 2020 World Veterans Championship (WVC) in Bordeaux next June is organised by the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Table Tennis Association under the supervision of the Fédération Française de Tennis de Table (FFTT).
First published in the November/December 2019 issue of The Local Buzz