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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 July, 2004, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
Dutch star in the frame
By Saj Chowdhury

Rolf de Jong
It's so hard these days to get on the main tour
Rolf de Jong
At last season's World Snooker Championship only one player from outside Great Britain and Ireland featured at The Crucible.

There are many reasons for this: the cancellation of the European Tour, the lack of world ranking international events and the difficulty of getting on to the main tour, to name but a few.

Snooker, however, is still a very popular sport around the world and with the advent of satellite television the number of fans and new players is on the increase.

Dutchman Rolf de Jong is one of Holland's leading snooker stars. He was runner-up at the Under-21 World Championship in 1999 and finished second in this year's Dutch Championship, losing to Stefan Mazrocis in the final.

De Jong told BBC Sport about how his love for the game and the difficulties faced by Dutch players.

"I began playing at the age of nine," he said.

"A friend invited me to come with him and play a game of snooker in a club nearby.

"I loved it from the first time I saw the table. I was, and still am, fascinated by the difficulty of the game and the fact that every frame you play is different.

"After my dad and I played a couple of times, the owner of the club invited me to come and practice on Sunday mornings with some other guys in my age group. After a while I started playing local tournaments and that's how it all began."

You can never get bored of the game
Rolf de Jong
De Jong said that the game has a loyal fanbase in Holland, but needs a figure to come out of the shadows and make a name for him or herself in order to widen its appeal.

"Unfortunately, Dutch television isn't interested in snooker," added De Jong.

"I think this is mainly because we don't have a top class player in Holland. We need someone who can do the same for snooker as Raymond van Barneveld did for darts.

"Several guys try to turn professional but it's very hard for overseas players. Although a lot of people know and play the game, it isn't that popular."

The 23-year-old also revealed his frustrations at the lack of support from snooker's governing body for players outside Britain and Ireland.

"We used to have the Eurotour, which I thought was great. It gave players from Europe a realistic chance of making it on to the main tour," said the Dutchman.

"Unfortunately World Snooker cancelled the Eurotour after the 2002/2003 season but I would love it to come back as I'm sure a lot of other players do. It's so hard these days to get on the main tour."

Whether De Jong wins the chance to mix it with the likes of Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stephen Hendry remains to be seen, but one thing is certain about his relationship with snooker.

"I'll probably play the sport for the rest of my life. You can never get bored of snooker."

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