Bad blood goes along way to making sport interesting. Outside of oil protestors, the smack talk between Ronnie O'Sullivan and Hossein Vafaei has been one of the most interesting parts of the 2023 World Championships. The pair finally played each other today after days of smack talk. While many expected fireworks, no one expected this.
During the match between the pair in the Snooker World Championship today, the Iranian took his chance to get back at Ronnie O'Sullivan for his antics in during their match in 2021.
Vafaei, much to the surprise of onlookers, essentially gifted a frame to Ronnie O'Sullivan in a rather strange act of self sabotage. During the second frame of the match and Vafaei's first break, he smashed his break and sent the reds everywhere.
There was an audible gasp in the crowd and the BBC commentators called it one of the strangest things they'd ever seen.
Vafaei looked into the crowd just after, which suggested this whole this was pre-planned.
Revenge for Vafaei
If you're familiar with this recent rivalry between the pair, you might remember an identical shot played by Ronnie O'Sullivan during the German Masters back in 2021 when he was 4-0 down against Hossein Vafaei.
𝗜𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴. 👀 #CazooWorldChampionship pic.twitter.com/KN0PrOAMNi
— Live Snooker (@Livesnooker) April 21, 2023
A feud was born that day. After his win over O'Sullivan, Vafaei told Eurosport that he was "a little bit sad" with how his opponent reacted.
Ronnie was my hero
I could never see myself beating him. When I beat him 5-0 I was a little bit sad, but on another side happy because I showed I can play.
He will remember that, 100 per cent. Play like a man. Don’t play mind games or smash the balls and disrespect me when 70 or 80 million people are watching me in Iran. Now he’s my opponent. This is life.
I believe that everything happens for a reason, you can’t run away. If you do something bad to the people and break someone else’s heart, then God will give you an opportunity to get revenge.
It's clear that Vafaei did get his opportunity at revenge, but perhaps he did more damage to his own game than he did to an unfazed-looking O'Sullivan.
The break bamboozled the commentators. Steve Davis sounded absolutely gobsmacked.
It is not good to see. It is not disrespectful to Ronnie but maybe to the game and people who have come to watch a good game.
“It is not nice, it is not good. Snooker is not a personal game. Your problem is the table and the balls not your opponent. I find this very difficult to analyse, Hossein Vafaei is not cut from the same lump of wood as me. I don't understand how can you smash up the balls in World Championship.
“I don't understand how you can then play great in the next frame. What type of brain can do that? To prove your point, whatever, but not in the World Championship.
Many on Twitter made the same point, saying O'Sullivan was living in Vafaei's head, rent-free.
Ronnie O'Sullivan and Hossein Vafaei involved in war of words
Since their first match, there's been a number of comments thrown around by both players aimed at each other.
Last year, upon qualifying for his first ever World Championship, Hossein Vafaei said that O'Sullivan should "retire".
Speaking to the Metro, he said:
I like him a lot, I am his fan, I love what he does but sometimes he’s disrespectful, he’s not good for the game,
I think he should retire, to be honest with you. He should retire and then the younger generation make the game bigger.
These comments didn't seem to worry O'Sullivan in the slightest with seven-time world champion saying:
I can’t start criticising when people say something,
Some of the things I’ve said over the years have been…I look back and laugh at them because some of them have been blinders.
Hossein has said what he said. Listen, he’s a great player, he’s a good guy and you know…it’ll be a good match if I play him.
With the beef looking like it had cooled off after O'Sullivan's comments, tensions rose again this week when 'The Rocket' was informed that he would face Vafaei next.
Speaking on Eurosport, O'Sullivan said:
Hossein Vafaei, the man who said…what did he say about me, I can’t remember?
After being reminded what exactly his opponent said, Ronnie O'Sullivan said that he "gets off" on comments like those made by the Iranian.
I think he’s learned to be quiet. Don’t rattle my cage.
I’m just having fun. I love it when they call me out, I love it when they give me stick, I love it, it turns me on, I get off on it.
I need it to fire me up so I’m hoping someone says something, so I can have a reason to perform. But they’re not going to say it now, they probably realise it’s not a good tactic.
It's clear to everyone, as if it was ever in doubt, that once you play Ronnie O'Sullivan at his own games, there's very little chance you will come out happy.
At time of publication, O'Sullivan lead Vafaei 6-2.
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