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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 April 2006, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Snooker's star referee
By Saj Chowdhury
BBC Sport in Sheffield

Dutch snooker referee Jan Verhaas is a big man. A very big man.

At 6ft 6ins with a crew-cut, people notice when he enters a room.

Dutch referee Jan Verhaas
To referee a World final is the pinnacle of my career
Dutch referee Jan Verhaas

But Verhaas is also stereotypically Dutch: approachable, charismatic and laid-back.

The combination has made him as popular on the snooker circuit as any of the players, and the 39-year-old has been given the task of refereeing his second Crucible final.

Verhaas, who took charge of the 2003 encounter between Mark Williams and Ken Doherty, told BBC Sport he cannot wait to enter the theatre's arena to start play on Sunday.

"I'm extremely excited," he said.

"To referee a World final is the pinnacle of my career. But it's my second one and I know what to expect.

"I really enjoyed my first experience and I wasn't that nervous, although the adrenalin was pumping because you realise how big the occasion is."

Snooker in the Netherlands has been popular for several years, although the Dutch have yet to produce a top-class player.

Despite this, Verhaas was always determined to make a mark on the world scene as a referee.

"It was by chance that I started refereeing," he explained.

"In 1989, one of my best mates opened a snooker club in Rotterdam and I began putting the balls back for him in the finals of their competitions.

"English referee Michael Clarke used to come over for our tournaments. He taught me the ins and outs of the game. I did my exams and that's how my rise to the top started.

I live a pretty secretive life in Holland
Jan Verhaas

"I began looking after amateur matches, but I admired top officials such as Len Ganley, John Street, John Williams and Alan Chamberlain, and I wanted to get to where they were.

"They were on the TV and big celebrities during the 1980s and 1990s. I've been very lucky to have achieved my ambitions, but I did work hard to get where I am."

Those who know Verhaas, say he has a wicked sense of humour on the tour, although he conducts himself in a serious manner during matches. Well, usually.

"I have had a few embarrassing moments. I stopped a game once for 15 minutes, because I started getting the giggles. I just couldn't stop," recalled Verhaas.

"It was in Thailand. Tony Drago was playing a wildcard from Malaysia. The Malaysian player kept making bodily noises.

"I just cracked up and tears started running down my face. I hope that never happens again, but it was very funny."

Verhaas is often approached by members of the public when he is over in the UK and Ireland during the season, but when he returns to the Netherlands it is an altogether different experience.

"People don't know what I do back home, it's not as mad as it is back here," he said.

"I live a pretty secretive life in Holland."


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