Monday, 26 July 2010

Alex Higgins

Alex Higgins smoked heavily, drank with extreme gusto. He looked as though, as a kid, he'd had a paper-round in down-town Beirut. And now at the age of sixty-one, after a long battle with throat cancer, snooker's legendary player has left us.

Off the table, time and again, Higgins behaved terribly badly. The day after his second World Championship win in 1982 he appeared before the sport's governing body, which fined him a thousand pounds for misdemeanours including urinating in a flowerpot at the Crucible. He was also given to threats and assaults involving match officials and other players.

But the Hurricane made the game what it is today. Fans of the sport embraced him as their
'people's champion'; he transformed snooker's popularity. Erratic and jumpy around the table, a virtuoso long-potter, Alex wore his heart on his sleeve and the public loved him for it. Like George Best, a contemporary Belfast wild boy, Higgins may never have understood how he achieved his brilliance, but his presence at the table was often nothing short of mesmerising. Millions of television viewers will long remember his reaction after he sealed his second World Championship victory, when he cried out for his baby daughter Lauren. It remains one of the sport's most emotional and enduring images.

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