Shaun Murphy Snooker World Champion

by
02 November 2006

'I feel very close to God, especially just before a match’

Being World Champion is just about sinking in, the more I talk about it, and the more people say it. If I was left to my own devices, I would still believe that someone might come and take the trophy.

I nearly kept it in its big box, but I have put it on display. I have to give it back before the next world championships.

Our lifestyle has changed — partly because of money and partly because of opportunities. Financial burdens have lessened, but the Inland Revenue are always there.

I always start off a tournament by praying. This began instinctively, and now I do it as a matter of choice. Just before I go out into that arena, I pray on my own, and also with Clare, my wife.

I never pray that I will win — just that I will play to the best of my ability. If you only play to win you can become disenchanted: sport is a fabulous spectacle for everyone, and playing well is just as important.

I met Clare on a Christian internet chat room. But that was a very short encounter. She was ill and just having a look, and it was one of the first times I had used it. But as soon as we realised we connected, we arranged to meet privately, and it went from there.

The site ( www.fusion101.com ) is completely Christian and very safe. You have to choose to swap your personal details.

We married this month, and tried to keep it as personal as possible. My family are important: my mum Jean and dad Tony. My parents divorced when I was 14, and I lived with my dad. Both my parents have helped my career. My mum bought me my first snooker cue, and I was hooked. But my dad, who had been a professional golfer, took care of the business, career structure.

I did quite well as a junior. I won the UK under-15 title for three years running. I was the youngest ever pro-am winner, and also went on to become the youngest ever professional player.

Before I held that first cue I had the usual ambitions to become a policeman, fighter pilot, or fireman.

I go to the gym regularly to keep fit. The top-flight players may not be as fit as, say, a track athlete, but it is very important.

If a young person really wants to become a professional snooker- player they should have a go. There are lots of good coaches out there, lots of advice, and there are a lot worse things they could be doing.

I am reading a book about the Olympic athlete Michael Johnson , as well as a couple of spiritual books written by my pastor, the Revd John Andrews. I also have Bill Clinton’s autobiography on the go.

The biggest choice I have made is to come back to my faith. I was brought up a Roman Catholic, and only felt my faith come alive six years ago. But I started to backslide, and one day, when I was talking about being a Christian in a TV interview, I thought: “You hypocrite.” I was not living how I was speaking. So I sorted it out. I am now further on than I ever was.

Tiger Woods, the golfer, is my greatest role-model. I would love to spend time with him. I admire how he conducts himself and strives to do his best both on and off the course. He is a really good role-model. I am a bit of a child, and have his computer games, books, and so on.

A lot of sermons at our church are about encouraging. Anyone can achieve, and everyone has got some talent: I think that is a really important message. God doesn’t want us to be mediocre in whatever we do.

I used this when someone in the press asked me after my win at the Crucible whether God would approve of me playing snooker on Sundays. I replied that he had given me a talent, and that to use it meant I had to play on Sundays.

I love the bits of the Bible where Jesus speaks directly. I find that very inspirational.

I do not get angry very often, but I do get frustrated. This happens sometimes when my practising does not go smoothly, or if it is raining when I want to play golf. I play off a handicap of 6.

I find happiness in simple things. Recently, I have visited two schools. One was for children with special needs. I did assemblies and a talk. Just to see the effect this had on the children was wonderful. My visit seemed to be so important to them, and this made it very, very special for me.

When Clare and I go out for coffee we always opt for fair-trade. She ran a small business where she imported goods from Zimbabwe made by people there, and profits were ploughed back into their community. Through our church, we have links with missionaries there.

The new season starts in August. It follows a similar pattern to the football one. In every championship I come in as the second seed, as I am world champion. The defending title-holder of that particular tournament is always first.

I met the Bishop of Sheffield [the Rt Revd Jack Nicholls] after I won the World Championship. He seemed a very nice man. It was very late, at a dinner at one in the morning, and I had to give a speech to all the guests.

I am trying to become a sun person when it comes to holidays . But I am very pale. We went away recently and I got very burnt, but Clare went a lovely brown.

I don’t have a particular place I use for spiritual retreats . I find my most spiritual moments are when I am playing snooker. I feel very close to God, especially just before a match. When everything else is kicking off, I can feel very much at peace.

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