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Meet one of the referees changing the face of snooker

Desislava Bozhilova has been officiating in the men’s game for over six years

IN 2001, the chief executive of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, Jim McKenzie, said he wanted to change the stuffy, all-male image of the sport.

Today, a number of female referees have emerged and officiate every week at tournaments all over the world.

Unlike rugby, football and cricket, for instance, women regularly referee at the highest level of the men’s professional game.

I spoke to referee Desislava Bozhilova, who told me how she came to be a snooker referee, despite growing up in the Bulgarian town of Silven where snooker was rarely played.

Ms Bozhilova said: “I played pool and watched snooker on TV. When I moved to Sofia I started playing and getting involved.”

“As a young woman, you definitely have to prove yourself at the beginning, but no matter who you are you can do it if you work hard.

“It is a bit unusual, at least people think so, but as the game becomes more popular around the world, more people have become part of it.

“There are younger referees than me who are doing a good job. It doesn’t matter, it’s about being good enough.”

The extent to which she felt snooker is a game for all was striking, especially when you consider that it has only been 17 years since a woman first officiated a men’s ranking event.

Ms Bozhilova said: “Sexism is not a thing here, not any more. Probably before Michaela (Tabb, the first female referee in the men’s game) it was different, now it is not even an issue.”

Ms Bozhilova said she thought snooker had a bright future and it will be a big part of hers: “I love it, you travel the world and meet interesting people and I love the game also. That makes it perfect.

“I do have other interests. I work in architecture between tournaments occasionally, but for now snooker is the main thing.”

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