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“He’s a nice person when he’s asleep” – Vafaei hits out at O’Sullivan ahead of Crucible clash

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Vafaei stirs the pot (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA/Alamy Stock)

Hossein Vafaei has called out rival Ronnie O’Sullivan after setting up a grudge clash at the World Snooker Championship on Monday.

Vafaei produced a scintillating second session of snooker to defeat 2016 finalist Ding Junhui 10-6, winning seven of the last eight frames.

In doing so, he became the first Iranian player to register a win at The Crucible, powering in two century breaks along the way.

Vafaei confirmed a show-down with O’Sullivan in the Last 16, starting on Friday, and has reignited their new-found rivalry with some brutal post-match remarks.

Twelve months after branding O’Sullivan “not good for the game” and suggesting he should retire, Vafaei has doubled down on his comments after ‘The Rocket’ warned his rivals to “not rattle my cage” following his opening round victory on Saturday.

“I have to play like that to shut some people’s mouths and show them what I can do,” Vafaei told Eurosport.

“This is just the beginning. My best hasn’t come out yet, if my ‘A’ game comes out, I’m definitely going to do some damage.

When asked whose mouths he would like to shut, Vafaei replied: “Ronnie O’Sullivan.

“I was quiet, I was respecting him and I saw so many people sending me his interview [from Saturday].

“It is what it is, he’s such a nice person when he’s asleep.

“He was such a legend of the sport, no one can play snooker better than him, he’s an absolute genius.

“When you’re following your hero, you want to be exactly like him and it was affecting me.

“I was disrespecting my family and people around me. It’s better to not say any more.

“As soon as I changed my hero, I just became a better person. I learned how to respect the people I know.

“There are so many young people wanting to become like us, I don’t want them to disrespect their family when they grow up.

“I’m trying to change the players minds to respect each other more, it’s snooker not boxing.”

Defending champion O’Sullivan, who is bidding to claim a record-breaking eighth world title, revealed he had been feeling under the weather during his First Round win over Pang Junxu, but Vafaei has dismissed those claims.

He added on BBC Sport: “He always finds excuses for himself, he’s been like that for 30 years.

“There’s no pressure, I don’t have anything to lose.

“The Crucible is going to be my home so I have to get used to it and be good with the people and respect everybody who is supporting me.

“I don’t fear these guys. My life was tough so I love tough. The pressure is on them.

“Ronnie is a legend when he is on the table.

“It’s going to be a great match for the people. I think every sport needs to have people like us.

“I’m looking forward to it. Like I said, have nothing to lose, if he beats me 13-0 or something like that then I’m still at the start of my career.

“If I beat my hero, well he used to be my hero, I’m going to be dangerous for the tournament.”

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