Grandpa Tuek turns to Cambodia
Champion player to represent neighbour after being left out of Thai squad
Mongkhol Kanfaklang, a 73-year-old award-winning billiards player, said yesterday he will take up Cambodian citizenship after being left out of the Thai squad, now training in England.
A gold medallist with the men's doubles billiards team at the 2002 Asian Games, "Grandpa Tuek", as he is known, decided to change his citizenship after meeting with renowned monk Luang Phor Khoon, at Wat Ban Rai in Nakhon Ratchasima.
The monk, who Mongkhol highly respects, said he would not stop the old man playing for Cambodia.
Mongkhol claims he was unfairly left out of the Thai squad because he was asked to undergo a trial like the other players. He said the other players in the national billiards team were automatically called up, but not him. He also claimed that snooker and pool players had to undergo trials, even though they were medallists like himself.
He claimed executives of the Thailand Billiards and Snooker Association had promised him a coaching job after his retirement from the sport but it never transpired. Mongkhol said he was now in even better form than he was when he won the Asian Games gold medal.
"Grandpa Tuek" made headlines after he won the prestigious Asian Games gold medal - by marrying his 18-year-old Burmese girlfriend, two years ago.
The Korat native made his debut in the 1991 Sea Games in Malaysia and has since won many medals for Thailand. He also coached a men's doubles billiard team for Thailand that won gold medals in a competition in Vietnam two years ago.
Mongkhol said he would receive a Cambodia passport in the next few days and would meet Luang Phor Khoon again on October 4, which is the monk's birthday, before departing for Cambodia. "And if I can't play well for Cambodia, I will coach billiards players that represent my home district of Korat," he said.
However, Songchai Rattana-suban, chairman of a committee overseeing the trial sessions for players, said Mongkhol announced his retirement after winning the Asian Games gold medal and had never showed up for any trials or participated in any domestic competitions since. Songchai said he would quit if Mongkhol beat Thailand's players while representing Cambodia.