Shaun Murphy compares Ronnie O'Sullivan with Alex Higgins
Shaun Murphy compares Ronnie O'Sullivan with Alex Higgins

Is Ronnie O'Sullivan really bad for snooker? Shaun Murphy compares the Rocket to Alex Higgins in response to Hossein Vafaei's controversial remarks

What Ronnie O’Sullivan has done for snooker can never be quantified.

But for all the outrageous highs and moments of pure genius during the Rocket's 30-year career, there’s probably been well over 147 controversial comments to further add to his enigma.

In the build-up to this year’s World Championship, where he's bidding to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of seven Crucible crowns, qualifier Hossein Vafaei hit the headlines with an eye-opening tirade that was ironically worthy of O'Sullivan himself.

It was no surprise therefore, that some of the world’s top players were asked if they agreed with his views during Friday’s pre-tournament press conference.

The first Iranian ever to qualify for the World Championship accused the 20-time Triple Crown champion of being disrespectful to lower ranked players and even called on him to retire.

He told the Metro last week: "A lot of things he says frustrates me. What kind of legend are you if you call people numpties?”

Vafaei even questioned whether he’d actually made the game bigger and wants him to retire so the younger generation can do a better job, saying, “I don’t see any improvement, he’s been 20 years on top of this sport and what has he done for us? This is my biggest question: What has he done for us? I think he should retire, to be honest with you. He should retire and then the younger generation make the game bigger."

Three-time world champion Mark Williams and 2005 Crucible king Shaun Murphy accepted there were some valid points made by Vafaei – specifically about the detrimental comments of other pros – but they firmly believed snooker is in a better place because of O’Sullivan.

Also Read: Ronnie O'Sullivan on 'that' 147 break

Murphy went as far as comparing the Rocket to another revolutionary star in snooker’s past, telling Sporting Life: “Alex Higgins wasn’t the world’s best role model at all. But he dragged snooker from anonymity kicking and screaming into people’s homes through the TV. He made people watch and demanded their attention.

“Ronnie O’Sullivan is exactly the same. He hasn’t always said the right things and he’d admit himself that he’s not a media trained robot.

“But he demands people’s attention and it drags them into snooker. Coverage has been into 1.8 billion households around the world last season – but would those figures be the same without Ronnie O’Sullivan? I doubt it.”

Also Read: Murphy on completing the 'Holy Grail'

Scroll down to listen to Shaun Murphy's story of his holy grail
Click on the image to read or listen to Shaun Murphy's story of his holy grail

Williams, meanwhile, believes the main reason why he thinks O’Sullivan is a ‘pain in the arse’ is because he keeps beating him.

He told Sporting Life: “I agree with some of what Hossein said about how Ronnie runs lower ranked players down and sometimes talks the game down.

“As an ambassador for the sport, he shouldn’t really be saying things like that.

“But to say he should retire is wrong – he’s the pinnacle of our game. If he’s playing, he’ll sell tickets and be put on the match table for TV.

“Whether you like him or not, he’s carried the game for a long time and that’s why the money in the game is as good as it is. He’s still the main draw now.

“I don’t enjoy playing him…but only because he keeps beating me. He’s a pain in my arse!”

Mark Allen also mostly disagreed with Vafaei, telling Eurosport: “I think some things that he’s said over the years you can take with a pinch of salt. I don't even think he believes what he says sometimes, but to say he's bad for the game. No, I wouldn't go that far.

“Sometimes you'd rather say ‘Just keep quiet please, for a minute. Just let snooker do the talking.’ But that's just part of the Ronnie O'Sullivan show.”

Luca Brecel, however, was quoted as saying he agreed with Vafaei, telling Eurosport: “I was reading it yesterday. And I think he's absolutely right.

“I think it's good to have a guy like that in snooker like Hossein, he just says what he thinks and he's not scared to say it, even if it is Ronnie.

"And yeah, I totally agree with him.”

World Snooker Championship 2022: Draw and tournament bracket

  • Mark Selby (1) v Jamie Jones
  • Yan Bingtao (16) v Chris Wakelin
  • Barry Hawkins (9) v Jackson Page
  • Mark Williams (8) v Michael White
  • Kyren Wilson (5) v Ding Junhui
  • Stuart Bingham (12) v Lyu Haotian
  • Anthony McGill (13) v Liam Highfield
  • Judd Trump (4) v Hossein Vafaei
  • Neil Robertson (3) v Ashley Hugill
  • Jack Lisowski (14) v Mathew Stevens
  • Luca Brecel (11) v Noppon Saengkham
  • John Higgins (6) v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
  • Zhao Xintong (7) v Jamie Clarke
  • Shaun Murphy (10) v Stephen Maguire
  • Mark Allen (15) v Scott Donaldson
  • Ronnie O'Sullivan (2) v David Gilbert


Published at 1130 BST on 14/04/22

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