“One week I’m chopping up chickens and the next, I’m a professional snooker player.”
While the World Snooker Championship was taking place at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield last week, just down the road at the city’s English Institute of Sport, life changed dramatically for butcher Farakh Ajaib.
He is one of 12 players to successfully come through the sport’s Q School this year and win a two-year card to play on the World Snooker Tour for the 2020-21 season.
The 29-year-old from Accrington used to work at his father’s butchers shop but is hoping he can now swap the meat cleaver for a cue for the foreseeable future.
“I never want to go back to butchering! I’ve told my dad I’m not going to work no more. I’ve got to give snooker one hundred percent now,” said Ajaib.
Like many young players, Ajaib has dreamed of coming up against his idol Ronnie O’Sullivan – who won his sixth world title on Sunday, beating Kyren Wilson 18-8 at the Crucible – and that is something that could come true now.
However he doesn’t agree with O’Sullivan’s recent criticism of the standard among the lower ranked players, when he said he would have to “lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50”.
“Maybe because he’s the best, he thinks he can say stuff like that but I think the standard’s better now than it’s ever been,” Ajaib told BBC Radio Lancashire.
“What he said was unfair and if anyone else had said it they’d be slated for it but because he’s the greatest ever, it’s almost like he can say what he wants. I still think he’s a great ambassador for snooker.”
Ajaib will be the only British-born player of South Asian heritage on the professional circuit this season and says he’s buoyed by the support of his family and friends.
“I’ve had so many phone calls and messages congratulating me,” he said. “My dad is my biggest fan and can’t wait to watch me on the TV.
“I didn’t tell him I’d entered Q School until I won. I just told him I needed a week off. I rang him in the morning and he’s the happiest man alive.”
Ajaib is now a father himself to a 15-month-old daughter and thinks this could be the secret to his success.
“I’ve struggled in the past few years trying to get on the tour but I’m in a better place mentally now, especially after having my little girl,” he said.
“I’m just so happy and snooker doesn’t mean everything. It takes the pressure off. I’m finally there and I’m going to relish every moment.”