RONNIE O’SULLIVAN fears snooker’s Chinese stars are set to quit the UK over coronavirus.
Five-time world champion O’Sullivan, 44, is a hero to many of the UK-based contingent from the Far East where the outbreak started in Wuhan.
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While China’s drastic lockdown, quarantine and travel measures were controversial the number of new cases there has started to fall.
The slow approach of Boris Johnson and the government has been heavily criticised in the UK.
O’Sullivan said: “A lot of the Chinese players have gone back to China or are itching to go back — they don’t feel safe here.
“I have had Chinese players say to me ‘Your prime minister doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s crazy’.
You worry for the elderly and vulnerable then less important things. Some people watch EastEnders, I watch sport. You don’t realise how much you love it until it’s not there.
“It’s hard to see how players like that will be playing the Worlds.
“This virus is very scary and first and foremost you really worry for the elderly and the vulnerable.
“Then there are the far less important things.
“I am one of those people who was gutted not to get to watch the Champions League and golf.
“I’m a sportsman but also a sports nut.
“Some people watch EastEnders, I watch sport and you don’t realise how much you love it until it’s not there any more.”
O’Sullivan has been mocked for refusing to shake hands with opponents on health grounds.
He added: “Maybe you look now and think ‘he’s not so crazy after all’. I have always been a bit OCD with germs.”
Snooker’s blue-riband World Championship at the Crucible, due to start on April 18, is in serious doubt.
But O’Sullivan said: “It’d be great if somehow it could take place, even behind closed doors for the morale of the sporting public — and for everyone to have something decent to watch on TV.
“There is a lot for the authorities to think about.
"It’s all right postponing it but where are you going to get 17 days in the calendar to put on an event like that again?”
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