I was sorry to see Bjorn Haneveer retire from the professional circuit, as I would be for any player.
Snooker players tend to start out very young and dream of glory. Most don’t attain this in the way they had hoped: winning the World Championship or another of the game’s big trophies.
This is the way of dreams: for most they will remain mere fantasies but, as John Lennon put it, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Then again, he also said ‘I am the egg man, they are the egg men, I am the walrus, goo-goo-g'joob’ so his profundity was something of a moveable feast.
Bjorn was a very talented amateur. I was in Riga when he won the European amateur title in 2001, a very competitive event the final of which was played live on local TV.
His best ranking as a professional was 53rd. He reached two ranking tournament last 16s and is Belgium’s best ever player.
However, snooker is biased towards the Brits. All the successful non-British players – Cliff Thorburn, James Wattana, Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson, even Ken Doherty – moved to live in the UK, where all the qualifiers are held.
Haneveer did not, and it is perhaps true to say that he failed to kick on because of this. He looked like a player who could certainly join the top 32, but it never quite happened.
Everywhere I look I read he is quitting because of the expenses he incurs. But this is only partly true.
He is not being forced off the circuit because of poverty. It’s just that he can earn more money commentating for Belgian Eurosport and by running his own carpentry business.
Credit to him for this. Many players have absolutely nothing to fall back on.
Now a father, Bjorn has reassessed his priorities and come to the decision that he can best provide for his family by concentrating on areas other than playing, which is always a perilous business, particularly with the standard through the ranks as high as it is.
But the brutal truth is this: sport is not a charity. It’s about excellence. It’s about achievement.
Every top player started at the bottom and worked their way up. They did so because of their talent, nerve and determination. Some complain that the leading players are too protected but there was no protection in place as they climbed the rankings. It was because of their results.
If snooker had been managed properly for the last three decades the world no.53 could well earn a six figure salary, but it wasn’t and they don’t.
Haneveer may feel he should have achieved more, although I still say his non-British status loaded the dice against him from the start.
I also think the qualifying system is too labyrinthine. The German Masters has only three rounds rather than four, which may be a better model than the current one.
I wish Bjorn well. He is a very good player from a country which clearly loves snooker.
He probably won’t miss the stress of the qualifiers, even if there is nothing quite like competition for a player of his ability.