EUROPE'S TOP YOUTH PLAYERS ARE BULGARIA BOUND
The EBSA European Amateur Snooker Championships will return to this year's European Capital of Sport - Sofia in Bulgaria, over the next fortnight.
A very healthy 38 different nations will be represented across the three catergories. The 27th edition of the Men's Championship will take place between the 10th-16th February, but the initial focus is on the Youth Championships with the Under 18 (2nd-5th) and Under 21 (5th-9th) events first up.
The Under 18 Championship is a recent addition to the festival (last year won by Jackson Page), but the older version has been contested for annually since 1997, although until 2010 it was a stand-alone Under 19 age category. Many previous champions have gone on to the professional ranks, most notably major event winners Mark Allen (2005), Michael White (2007) and Luca Brecel (2009). 12 months ago in Cyprus it was claimed by Alexander Ursenbacher.
Welsh talent Page, who was denied a double last year by Ursenbacher in that U21 final, is back to defend the U18 title.
On paper the 16 year old looks a likely candidate for glory again, but the English selection of Hamim Hussain, Janson Kendrick, Sean Maddocks and Sean McAllister all are as well.
The remaining UK and Irish contingent will also be capable of bids, including Page's compatriot Dylan Emery, who is the current World Open Under 16 Champion.
From the continent, Florian Nüßle (Austria), Ben Mertens (Belgium) and Patrik Tiihonen (Finland) may also be worth keeping a very close eye on too.
Many of those in the U18s are also present in the U21s - including Page.
A player whose stock in the Cuesports World continues to rise is Albania's Eklent (Klenti) KaÇi. The multi-talented 19 year old is very proficient on both snooker and pool tables; last year in New York he won two events in the inaugural World Pool Series and finished top of the rankings.
England's Brandon Sargeant and Jed Mann will be dangerous, along with the other Home Nations entries. Rodion Judin (Latvia) and Nordic Champion Belan Sharif (Sweden) could also emerge.
Both tournaments will see the players trying to qualify for the Knock-Out stages from Round Robin Groups.
For further information, the full draw and results, please visit the European Billiards and Snooker Association's website here.
Written and published by Michael Day on the 31st January 2018