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Iran snooker star Hossein Vafaei has claimed the practice facilities at the renowned Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England, resembled "playing in a garage," while also expressing doubts about the conditions players endure throughout the lengthy 17-day tournament.

The 29-year-old was speaking after his 10-5 first-round loss against one of the favourite Judd Trump, and Vafaei expressed his displeasure of the famed venue,  which has staged the World Championship every year since 1977."Everything's so bad - if you ask me if I want to come back here, I would tell you 'no way'," said Vafaei after Sunday's loss.

"Forget the history, you want to go somewhere really nice as a player. You walk around the Crucible and it smells really bad. You go to other countries, and everything is shiny. However, here it's completely different. "The practice room - do you see anything special? I feel like I'm practising in a garage."

Since 1977, The Crucible, with its 980-seat capacity, has been the venue for hosting the tournament. There's been increased speculation about the tournament's future after world number one Ronnie O'Sullivan proposed relocating it to Saudi Arabia or China once the current agreement expires in 2027.

Ranked 19th in the world, Vafaei, who first appeared at the Crucible in 2022, expressed enthusiasm for China. "Look at the China venues, how fantastic they treat the players, a red carpet and an opening ceremony," he said.

Vafaei slammed the practice facilities at The Crucible. GETTY IMAGES
Vafaei slammed the practice facilities at The Crucible. GETTY IMAGES

"The players are treated like stars. But here no one looks after the players, before and after the match no one cares who you are.
"If they don't want to lose the Crucible, invest some money, make it shinier, make it nicer, make it more luxury for the people. If they make it cleaner and nicer, people will enjoy it."

Sean Murphy, a former world champion, criticised Vafaei's remarks as "almost sacrilegious" and suggested that Vafaei should "familiarise himself" with The Crucible's importance in snooker's history. "This is a working theatre, it’s not a purpose-built snooker venue," said Murphy.

"We’re coming up to the 50th anniversary of snooker being here and if World Snooker Tour turned up tomorrow and did a site visit, they would probably not come here because it’s not big enough, but there’s nothing we can do about that. "But this is holy ground. It’s almost sacrilege for a professional snooker player to be so openly critical of our home. Hossein should educate himself on how our tour works."

Murphy wasn't the only one to hit out at Vafaei, with Scottish snooker star Alan McManus also reacting to the Iranians comments. "You come here to play snooker, you don't come here to smell roses and flowers and all that stuff," he said

"If Diana Ross came in here to put on a show or anyone else, it's a place of work. There's nothing wrong with the Crucible."