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Ronnie O’Sullivan issues response to Hossein Vafaei following opening win at The Crucible

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O’Sullivan has laughed off Vafaei’s comments (Credit: Li Ying/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has laughed off Hossein Vafaei’s call for him to “retire”, admitting he found the remarks “funny”.

Vafaei made the headlines last week after sensationally claiming O’Sullivan is ‘not good for the game’ and should step away from the sport.

O’Sullivan began his quest for a record-equalling seventh World Championship title with a 10-5 victory over David Gilbert at The Crucible and issued a tongue-in-cheek response to Vafaei in his post-match interview.

“You should know now I’m not really bothered about records and such like that,” said O’Sullivan told BBC Sport.

“Everyone talking about the seventh, Hendry’s record, but he was a hero of mine, I’d actually quite like him to keep one of them records.

“I’ve got enough records. I won’t start going on about them or Hossein Vafaei might get the hump!

“I’ll stay humble and say I’m here to enjoy my snooker, have some fun and enjoy the ride.”

Vafaei’s controversial comments came after he dramatically defeated Lei Peifan 10-9 in the final qualifying round to seal a debut appearance in the World Championship.

The Iranian, who picked up his first ranking title at the Shoot Out earlier this year, hit out at O’Sullivan’s previous remarks on lower-ranked players and branded the world number one as “disrespectful”.

“A lot of things he says frustrates me,” Vafaei told Metro. “What kind of legend are you if you call people numpties?

“I was and am still good friends with him, but I don’t like that. Maybe he likes it and gives him a good feeling but I think people should treat him like that as well. I treat him like he deserves.’

“To be honest, Ronnie O’Sullivan without his team, without the people who are around him, he wouldn’t be here at all. He wouldn’t be here at all.

“He’s comparing himself with someone else. He’s comparing me with someone else. I don’t like that. We don’t have to compare ourselves to others. He’s saying you are poor, I am rich, I am Ronnie O’Sullivan. I don’t like that. I have money, my people in Iran have money, but we have to respect human beings as well.

“I don’t want to get involved in that kind of conversation really. I like him a lot, I am his fan, I love what he does but sometimes he’s disrespectful, he’s not good for the game.

“I think he should retire, to be honest with you. He should retire and then the younger generation make the game bigger.”

O’Sullivan has racked up a staggering 38 career ranking titles, as well as a further 34 non-ranking titles, and has made 1,157 competitive century breaks, including 15 maximums.

In a pre-tournament interview with Eurosport, ‘The Rocket’ was quick to play down the criticism, adding: “It’s all part of the parcel of life, they’re just words at the end of the day.

“I just find it funny, I find everything funny thesedays. It’d take a lot to get me in a bad mood.”

Vafaei will take on 2019 World Champion Judd Trump in Round One on Wednesday, while O’Sullivan awaits the winner of the tie between Mark Allen and Scott Donaldson in the Last 16.

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