World Champion Luca Brecel Receives Hero’s Welcome During Hometown Celebrations

The 28-year-old Belgian claimed a first world title triumph at the Crucible earlier this month
23:00, 16 May 2023

Luca Brecel walked into a restaurant in his home town of Maasmechelen last week – and every diner rose to give him a standing ovation.

The 28-year-old Belgian is still just coming to terms with an extraordinary first world title triumph at the Crucible earlier this month – and what it will mean for the rest of his life.

Brecel had to share the celebrity honours in Belgium with Beyonce at the weekend, as the megastar singer hit Brussels performing to 50,000 at the national football stadium.


Meanwhile, around 70 miles to the east in a former coal-mining community, a crowd of several hundred showed they are very much crazy in love with the country’s new world-beater under his newly-earned sporting halo.

They gathered in the leafy Koninginnepark in the sunshine to hail a champion, as the man of the moment pitched up in his new ‘second trophy’ Ferrari 488 to receive the acclaim at a festival laid on in his honour.

A supreme talent that made Brecel a child snooker prodigy has been fulfilled, moving him to high on the list of famous Belgians - and all in a buccaneering, swashbuckling and fearless style that puts him into a very special bracket of winner.

The messages of congratulation have poured in from the likes of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, and Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois – both taking time out from Champions League engagements.


And on Sunday a family bursting with pride, former coaches and key early local backer Lode Colson charted the making of a champion, as the Crucible highlights played on the big screen.

Colson recalled that in an early Belgian championship, he texted Brecel after a 30-minute opening frame asking ‘Is this fast for snooker?’ After making a 147 in frame two, the player texted back: ‘No – but that was’.

The nearby Eisden coal mine may be long closed, with a branded beer and the mineworkers cottages around the park a reminder of an industry with which so many families including Brecel’s have links.

But Brecel represents a real gold strike for Belgium, and the game in general. Few would ever have thought there would be a world champion from mainland Europe before China.

Brecel said: “The reaction has been completely different to anything else I have won or done. The restaurant moment was nice – but very strange. Only something unusual provokes that.

“As a young kid, I dreamed of winning the world championship. But I can honestly say that I never dreamed of winning it like that, in that style, with so much attacking play. That is the real dream.

“And I love being talked about in the same way as Alex Higgins, Jimmy White, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump.

“Plus one of the things I am most proud of is winning it while staying based in Belgium. So many people, players, managers told me I had to go and be based in England.

“But I have always done things my way. The travelling is longer, but not too bad. I can drive to London in four or five hours. Winning the world title proves you can do it the way that makes you happiest.”

Brecel did not cope well with early career fame, money and spotlight after becoming the youngest player ever to play at the World Championship at the age of 17 – and went somewhat off the rails.

But despite a narrative in Sheffield of failing to practise and beery nights out, he insists there is no chance of any repeat.

And even with his Ferrari purchase, there is more method in the madness. It was bought from a local dealer second-hand for around £150,000 – and likely to increase in value.


Brecel said: “When I first broke through and got some fame, I lost my way and my focus for a couple of years. But that won’t happen again after this.

“My mindset is totally different now. Back then I didn’t really realise how much I wanted to be a very top player. Top 32, top 40 seemed okay. I wasn’t a real winner.

“But that has changed for good, I know how it feels to win and I want to keep on doing that. So I might buy a nice car, or have a couple of beers with friends.

“But nothing will get in the way of what I want to do in snooker. A perfect lifestyle off the table isn’t needed to do well on it. And anyway, who are any of us to say what is perfect and what isn’t.

“The Ferrari – to have this car for me it is like another trophy, for winning the world championship. We are close to the German border, and there you can go almost as fast as you want.

“But it is less about speed than how the car looks for me. I just love it. And it is a reminder every day of what I did. I did that before with watches, and buying my house.

“I don’t know yet if I can keep winning like a Ronnie O’Sullivan, a John Higgins or a Stephen Hendry. But I look forward to finding out.”

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