Sport Win or don't eat: the Philippines' poverty-driven, world-beating pool stars

08:40  26 november  2019
08:40  26 november  2019 Source:   msn.com

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Poverty is still a big problem in the world today, as you can see from the numbers. The World Bank aims to reduce global poverty to 9% by 2020 and to 3% by 2030. They plan to do this by focusing more on promoting income growth for the bottom 40% of the population and boosting shared prosperity.

Fighting poverty in all of its dimensions lies at the core of the World Bank’s work. The World Bank Group is committed to fighting poverty in all its dimensions. Conflict-affected communities in Mindanao are among the poorest in the Philippines , suffering from poor infrastructure and lack of

Aed Carabao sitting at a table with a blue ball: Efren 'The Magician' Reyes is rated as one of the best pool players ever to pick up a cue© Ted ALJIBE Efren 'The Magician' Reyes is rated as one of the best pool players ever to pick up a cue

Pool isn't just a game in the Philippines but a way to make a living, driving a fiercely competitive scene that has produced some of the world's top players.

The game played in dirt-floor pool halls with bumpy tables in thousands of little towns has provided an escape route from the grinding poverty endured by millions.

Though competition is ferocious from places like Taiwan and China, the Philippines is today the only country with a man and woman shooter in the top five of the World Pool-Billiard Association rankings.

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Philippine leaders have tried for decades to ease poverty , but about a quarter of the people remain poor because of entrenched problems such as land distribution and poor access to capital. Add to that a manufacturing sector that's too small to ease poverty by offering a glut of low-skilled jobs.

The Philippine Poverty -Environment Initiative focuses on poverty reduction and sustainable development by integrating pro-poor agenda and environmental concerns into development planning and decision-making process. It aims at demonstrating that, if managed properly and sustainably

Pool is a route out of poverty for some in the Philippines© Ted ALJIBE Pool is a route out of poverty for some in the Philippines

"If you miss that shot, you might not eat," said Ted Lerner, a US-born journalist who has made a life in the Philippines, summing up the pressure they play under.

It means the Philippines will be well placed for the billiards, pool, snooker and carom events at the Southeast Asian Games, starting in and around Manila this week, where 10 gold medals are on offer.

Several Filipino players have won major international titles© Ted ALJIBE Several Filipino players have won major international titles

Perhaps the best example of the Philippine tradition is Efren 'The Magician' Reyes, a former world champion in both eight- and nine-ball pool and considered one of the best to ever pick up a cue.

The eighth child in a poor family of nine siblings, he left his hometown north of Manila to live with his uncle who owned a pool hall in the capital.

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He started playing at eight years old, looking for a way out of poverty.

"I saw my uncle win cash after playing billiards and I realised I can earn a living from here," 65-year-old Reyes told AFP, between shots at a Manila pool hall.

He rose to prominence playing for money and hustling in the United States, and was part of the so-called "Filipino invasion" that took over the sport in the 1980s.

"They call the Philippines the pool capital of the world," Marissa Guinto, sports psychologist and professor at the University of the Philippines, told AFP.

"Even the Americans... have a hard time competing against Filipinos," she added.

- 'Money for everyday food' -

The incubator that produced these players goes back to the 1900s when American soldiers stationed in the Philippines played pool as a pastime, and fueled the game's growth.

As pool spread, so did the practice of betting on the matches. As a result, the game was picked up by Filipinos who were literally starving for a win.

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- Escape from poverty -. For 1985 Miss Philippines Joyce Burton-Titular, pageants are huge in the country because of Filipinos love to ogle and criticise "It's a cultural thing that starts with the admiration of beauty We also enjoy being mean critics, whether a girl wins or loses," Titular told AFP.

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"We couldn't find money for our everyday food," Carlo Biado, the men's number four in WPA rankings, told AFP.

"I started with just 20 peso bets ($0.39) and I eventually made a living out of billiards," said Biado, 36.

Biado won the world nine-ball title in 2017 and broke the Philippines' seven-year championship drought in the event.

The success of Filipino shooters has changed the perception of pool as a poor man's game, and helped build future world champions like Biado and Rubilen Amit, ranked the third best female player in the world, who grew up watching pool on TV.

One of the watershed moments was Reyes winning the world nine-ball title in 1999, a match televised live back home.

"It really opened the consciousness of Filipinos that it's a legitimate sport. A lot of Filipinos gravitated towards that," Guinto, the sports psychologist, said.

Amit started out working in her family's cargo logistics business, but when it hit the rocks financially she turned to pool.

"Basketball was my first love, but I am not tall enough. So I pursued billiards," Amit told AFP, echoing the national obsession with hoops.

"Playing billiards helped my family. In 2009, I was blessed to win the world championships and be given financial blessings. That's how we recovered," Amit, 38, said.

The win-or-go-hungry attitude is key, but players may also get a boost from the nation's legion of iffy pool tables.

"Players in poor communities aren't picky about table surfaces. In fact, the bumpy surfaces may have bred better cue masters," Severino Sarmenta, a professor and veteran sportswriter, told AFP.


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Typhoon Kammuri swept through the Philippines on Tuesday, ripping rooftops from houses, knocking down power lines and leaving a half-million people huddled in evacuation centers, waiting for the storm to pass. At least one person was killed.Manila airport was ordered shut for 12 hours and nearly 500 flights were canceled. Officials suspended marine traffic in affected areas as Kammuri, packing wind gusts as high as 150 miles per hour, battered the Philippine archipelago for a second day.© Associated Press Officials said that widespread evacuations of residents from exposed areas had lessened the storm’s toll.

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