Filipino pool legend Efren Reyes suffered his second defeat in two days at the SEA Games, but that did not diminish him in the eyes of the hundreds of fans who chased him, leaving Thursday’s defeat behind bars.
The 67-year-old, considered one of the best players of his life, faced local Asha Tran Kuwait Chien in a three-cushion billiards quarter-final in Hanoi.
Thousands of people gathered at Ha Dong Gymnasium, the capital of Vietnam, to catch a glimpse of Reyes’ 29-year-old junior opponent.
Cheers erupted from the majority of the Vietnamese crowd when Chien quickly took an early 12-point lead over Reyes, who was nicknamed ‘The Magician’ for his skill at the table in his glorious days.
But there were also loud hurries as Reyes threatened a comeback before Chien moved away for an easy win.
The two men smiled and shook hands as hundreds of young fans chased after their hero before leaving the backyard of Reyes Hall.
As he retreated to a room for his own safety, he was later escorted by several policemen – one of whom hung a raspy teaser at nearby fans – on a waiting bus.
Refusing to speak to reporters, he nodded as his ride left the venue and some of his fans shouted in English: “I love you!”
Race began his professional career in 1978 and won more than 100 titles at the 1987 SEA Games, including two golds in English billiards and snooker.
But his career has been called a nose in recent years and he has left a continuation of the bronze medal at the regional showpiece, the latest coming in another event ahead of the Games in the Vietnamese capital.
Billiards are popular in Vietnam where many players compete internationally and halls dedicated to the game are scattered throughout Hanoi.
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