Earlier this year, Ukraine’s Iulian Boiko narrowly missed out on becoming snooker’s youngest ever professional player when he lost in the final of the 2020 World Snooker Federation Open.
The 14-year-old – who would have been the first from his country to reach the sport’s top tier – went on a memorable run in Malta during January. The most lucrative amateur snooker event in the world, Boiko eliminated significant opponents such as Sean O’Sullivan and Ross Muir on his way to making the title match, before only being denied by the in-form Ashley Hugill 5-3.
Following an invitation to the Snooker Shoot Out, Boiko built upon his success when he won the recent EBSA European 6-Red Championship in Portugal; the first Ukrainian born cueist to claim a European title. He defeated former world number eight Darren Morgan 5-3 in the final and will be the continent’s nomination for this year’s SangSom 6-Red World Championship.
Boiko’s rise through the ranks corresponds with snooker’s increasing popularity in Ukraine and much of eastern Europe as a whole.
Iulian’s father, Serhii Boiko, is one of those who created and oversees the Ukrainian Snooker Federation – the country’s national association. Serhii spoke with us, discussing what has been achieved there so far and their hopes for the future.
Can you tell us how the snooker association in Ukraine was formed?
Our federation was founded in December 2013. It was organised by Iulian’s practice partner Sergey Isaienko, Iulian’s first coach Piotr Chirkin and me.
How popular is snooker in Ukraine and what coverage does it receive? Are there many snooker clubs and tables in the country?
Snooker’s popularity has increased in the last two years as we have started broadcasting snooker on TV here. It is very popular for spectators as many are watching it on Eurosport, although we would still like more people to play it.
There are around 10 snooker centres in Ukraine. In Kyiv we have 20 snooker tables in 5 clubs, in Lviv there are 12 tables, up to 15 tables in our federation’s snooker academies in Kropyvnytskyi region and up to 20 tables in other regions.
What competitions do you hold in Ukraine, both for nationals and players from abroad?
We hold regional, national and international events.
There are about 150-200 regional tournaments every year which include under-16, under-21, women and senior categories. We also hold up to 10 national tournaments for all categories.
Every year we host an Independence Day Cup in August which is also open to international players. In 2019 we had entries from 16 different countries take part and three professionals – Michael Georgiou, Craig Steadman and Jamie O’Neill. The tournament had prize money of €6,000 and was held in perfect conditions with brand new cloth on each table. We had eight live streaming cameras and television coverage for the final stages.
Do you have qualified referees and coaches in Ukraine?
We have experienced coaches and during the recent European Snooker Championships in Portugal, Andrey Makkeiev and I became certified EBSA and WPBSA coaches. Ukraine has four certified referees.
What are the federation’s short and long-term goals for snooker in Ukraine?
We have several plans and aspirations for the future. We have created an under-16 snooker academy that has 100 students and one of our goals is to increase that number of players and quality of their game. We are now developing women’s snooker too and already we have 20 girls practising.
Support will continue for our best players – seven-time national champion Sergey Isaienko and Iulian. We aim for them to participate in most of the amateur and semi-professional competitions with a goal of reaching the main tour.
The federation also hopes to hold a Challenge Tour event and we have created all the conditions for this.