Pool champ has his eye on the prize

Kyle Akaloo. Picture: Supplied

Kyle Akaloo. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 16, 2024


South African pool champion, Kyle Akaloo, successfully defended his 9-ball and Straight Pool titles, securing victory in both tournaments at the national championships in Cape Town earlier this month.

From this week, Akaloo will compete in the South African Blackball National Championship in Durban - from April 17 to May 5 - and has his eye on the prize.

Akaloo, 34, from Malvern, won the 9-ball and Straight Pool championships for two consecutive years.

Although he only started playing the 9-ball format of cue sport two years ago, Akaloo, an avid athlete, began his journey in cue sport in 2010 and made pool his full-time career.

Since he shot to the top of the ranks in cue sports, he has played against the world's best players and travelled to compete in the USA, UK, Ireland, England, Spain, Malawi, Zimbabwe, China, France and Switzerland.

In the USA, he played in a four-week tournament in January and won two events from 15 tournaments.

He said of all his international opponents, South African players have the most passion.

“In other countries, players take the game for granted and there is no real passion, like I see in players in our country. Our people will play without proper pool tables or cues, yet they enjoy the game and play for hours.

"In other countries, I have seen players complain about the aircon, table, colour of the table, and many weird things. Even when they are winning, they are not enjoying the game. There is no passion and they are not enthusiastic about winning like our players here."

Akaloo was glad that South Africans have moved away from the stigma that pool was just a game played at bars and pubs.

“We have done away with the notion of old ways of thinking. About 10 years ago, pool was not so recognised as a sport. Cue sport is growing and South Africans are not being left behind. We are making our mark in the cue sport world."

He said there were many facilities available for young and female pool enthusiasts to join and advance in pool, and was thrilled that women were excelling in the sport.

To give back to his community of Chatsworth and surrounding areas, Akaloo began free pool coaching sessions for underprivileged children at his family business in Umhlatuzana. But he had to put the sessions on hold due to his demanding travel schedule.

He said there were many challenges in cue sport and funding for players was difficult to find as the sport was not subsidised or funded by the government.

“It's extremely costly to be a professional player. Sponsorship for Indians is hard. People feel it's like a donation, but we, as players, strive to give the sponsor some value or mileage."

He encourages pool fanatics to enroll at local clubs, register for league and play competitively to grow the sport further.

Apart from his countless wins, Akaloo said one of the highlights of his career was winning the U23 Blackball SA Championship in 2012, and finishing in the top 64 in the US Open 9-Ball Championships in the first year he entered, in 2022.

“The US event was sanctioned by the World Pool Association and was a highlight as it was within the first year of me playing 9-ball pool."

His motivation stems from him wanting to be a good role model for young children from townships.

“The youngest player I've seen excel was a 10-year-old girl from Las Vegas. A young boy named Leo in the UK also left me in awe, as they were so young and passionate.

“I felt happy watching them and it made me want to be a better player and better role model for children from my hometown of Chatsworth, where my roots remain.

“I advise children interested in cue sport, or any other sport, to read more often. Reading is vital. Comprehension and communication are important. When you like a specific sport, you have to put in the time and the work, do research and seek out the help of mentors.

"Mentors cut down learning time and guide you in the right way, as there is always a right way and wrong way to play pool. Also, always believe in yourself, no matter what,” he said.

Although his passion lies in the cue sport world, he cycles, plays indoor soccer, squash, chess and target shooting. He also competes competitively in athletics.

Akaloo aims to compete in the upcoming World Championships in Saudi Arabia and be in the running to win the $1million first prize if he qualifies to compete.

“I am proud that I got to keep both my championship titles and thank my anchor sponsor, Ricochets, and Mez Cues for their full equipment sponsorship. I also thank my beautiful wife for her support.”