Author Archives: Charis Mutschler

Column #CM110 Snowdrops and crocuses – the UK Open

Friday, March 4, 2022
Column CM110
Snowdrops and crocuses – the UK Open

It is the beginning of March, snowdrops and crocuses are in full bloom, the sun is shining (from time to time) and the birds are singing – it is obvious: not only is spring coming, so is the UK Open!

Despite the still booming Omicron variant and the war in the Ukraine, for us darts fans our main interest the next few days will be the UK Open in Minehead.  Often called the FA Cup of Darts as this is the tournament without seeds, with amateurs and without a tournament bracket – as after each round a new draw will take place (with the exception of the first to third rounds which are always drawn before the tournament starts). 

The crowd will be back in Minehead but I decided to stay at home – again.

The war has a teeny-weeny impact on the tournament as well on the only Russian participant – who is in fact not even Russian but Georgian/Greek but lives in Moskau Russia.  Boris Koltsov had to withdraw.  Due to this his opponent, Brian Raman, has a bye in the second round. Why the German Michael Unterbuchner withdrew is not known but his opponen Scott Waites gets a bye as well, in the first round.

So far, no other cancellations are known – all other 158 participants seem to be determined to take part.

The first day: today, Friday 4, is always the most stressfull and thrilling day – it starts with an afternoon session in which three rounds are played. This means, should you enter the tournament first round it may be that you’ve already played three matches on three different boards before the afternoon is over.  This of course is great as you will have won your matches but also confusing as there often is not much time between the matches and you have to stay well informed about what is going on on the boards you are supposed to play.  If a player is late to their next board they are out of the tournament.  This occurs quite often – last year, it happened to Steve Brown who got so engrossed in his son’s match that he was too late for his own.

All Tour Card holders – with the exception of Boris Koltsov and Michael Unterbuchner – will be in Minehead plus some players who qualified by the Development and the Challenge Tour and 16 players who qualified via Riley’s amateur qualifying events.

This year, an astonishing number of players who one knows already from PDC events but who don’t have a Tour Card or just lost their Tour Card used the Riley’s qualifiers to earn a place in the tournament. I am not quite sure that really is part of the intention for the amateur qualifiers – and of those who qualified by this way there are only five who never before played the UK Open: Paul Marsh, Danny Lauby, Steve Clayson, Matt Good and Adam Warner.

Marsh played a few BDO/WDF events and years ago in the PDC Qualifying School.  American Danny Lauby probably is known to most of us from the World Cup of Darts and the last PDC World Championship.  Steve Clayson, well, he seems to be a real amateur.  He is a kitchen fitter, 59 years of age and has never before played on TV.  Matt Good threw a nine-darter during the qualifier – no more is known about his darting skills. As to Adam Warner not much is known except that years ago played darts at the University of Sheffield and there won a competition…

There are many more debutants among the Tour Card holders and the qualifiers from the Challenge Tour and the Development Tour. More astonishing is that among the Tour Card Qualifiers, with James Wade and Steve Beaton we find two players who have been involved in each UK Open since its inception in 2003. In addition, Wade is the reigning champion and a three times title winner. And he’s still not even 40 years of age.

With Wade we‘ve already arrived at the favourites to win this year’s tournament…

As the UK Open often turns out to be a kind of surprise bag it is a difficult tournament for prediction. But despite all the upsets we have seen over the years and despite all the surprising and not to be expected runs some players have had in the event the winners often came from the group of in form players. We have had only two suprise winners, so far – Robert Thornton in 2012 and Nathan Aspinall in 2019. The other surprise players usually failed in the final should if they got that fare – as did Barrie Bates in 2006, Gary Mawson in 2008 and Corey Cadby in 2018.

The in form players this year are definitely Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price – without any doubt at all. Around those two we find a group of players who are in good form or who are always in the mix such as Wade, Jonny Clayton, Michael van Gerwen, Michael Smith and Gary Anderson. And there are a few could be’s as well who recently showed a return to form, such as Dimitri van den Bergh, Nathan Aspinall and perhaps Rob Cross.

It to be sure will be interesting to see how all these players will fare in the event. I am certain we will see upsets and some astonishing runs – perhaps from of some of the younger players like Callan Rydz or Josh Rock. The rather small group of favourites to win the title will leave room enough for stunning performances of other players.

The age range of the players extends from seventeen year old German Fabian Schmutzler (born in  2005) to almost sixty year old Ross Montgomery (born in 1962).

We will see players from 24 different countries – an amazing number, though still by far the most participants come from England followed by the Netherlands.  But the numbers of participants from other countries is rising – for example there will be seven German players and five players from North America among the participants.

As it is a tournament which is first played on eight different boards we will not see every single match on TV – the the broadcaster concentrates on the main stage and on stage 2.  That is a pity and I would think that now-a-days there would be a way to stream all the boards so fans would be able to pick the matches they really want to see (the matches on the main stage or the second stage are not necessarily the most thrilling or entertaining contests).

To be sure that’s moaning on a high level.  I am sure it will be a good tournament as always and that we’ll see a lot of great darts over the next three days and, I for one, I wouldn’t mind should we see a surprise winner on Sunday evening.

Column #CM109 It’s that time of the year – Wales!

Monday, January 3, 2022
Column CM109
Meet the players – Wales

In Wales – which, of course, is part of the United Kingdom – some special Christmas and New Year’s traditions (the season ends on January 6th) can be found while others are slowly falling into oblivion.

In Wales one can find a colorful Christmas tree in the sitting room, often decorated with craft objects from paper in different colors.

An important part of Christmas decorating at home are mistletoes and hollies, as mistletoes protect one from harm while hollies are a symbol for eternal life.

Also important in Wales are Christmas carols – both at home around the Christmas tree and in the churches.  Often carol singers walk from house to house and sing their songs.  Every year, new songs are composed and one of them will be awarded Carol of the Year.

In some rural regions, on the Christmas morning before dawn – between 3:00 am and 6:00 am (often lasting all three hours) the Plygain service still takes place – it consists of polyphonic carols sometimes accompanied by the harp.  The Plygain singers often stay awake all night making toffee over the fire, playing games and narrating fairy tales before they proceed to church.  After the service and all day long the celebrating, drinking and eating will continue.  Later in the day the gifts will be handed out.

In other regions on the morning of the Christmas day, Christmas swimming (yes, swimming!) will take place – often to collect money for charities.  In other parts of Wales, the swimming will be on New Year’s Day.  Probably the sea will be rather cold on both days!

An old tradition which was revived recently is the Mari Lwyd which will take place usually between Christmas Day and the Twelfth Day – a tradition of which the origin is not quite clear, but which probably combines Christian legend and Celtic mythology…

A horse head (not a real one!) is put on a stick and a man wrapped in a white cloth (as the horse’s body) carries it around.  Mari is often accompanied by a groom and some traditional figures.  In front of the houses the group and the horse will sing Welsh songs, tell riddles or rude rhymes.  When one open their door to Mari it will play tricks on them and their family – but they will all be lucky in the New Year.  Mari and companions usually will be rewarded with food and beer.

On New Year’s Day, Calennig will be celebrated – a feast to welcome the New Year.  It often is a feast for the children who walk from door-to-door singing and telling rhymes.  They will be rewarded with sweets, bread and cheese or money.  The children carry an apple stuck on three sticks and decorated with raisins, nuts and twigs of bux – which is a lucky symbol as well.

Obviously, a lot of the traditions have to do with food and drinking and of course on Christmas Day a special Christmas dinner is served in Wales.  It is very similar to the English Christmas dinner – a stuffed turkey with vegetables and Welshcake or pudding for desert.

Jim Williams, Nick Kenny and Lewy Williams will have been back in Wales in time for the Christmas dinner and I hope it hit the spot. Jonny Clayton probaly will have made it just in time for the New Year and, who knows, perhaps has taken part in a New Year‘s swimming.

Gerwyn Price stood on the stage of the Alexandra Palace on New Year’s Day and threw a nine-darter to welcome the new year.  But he lost the battle to defend the title against Michael Smith and will be on his way back to Wales while in the Ally Pally a new World Champion will be crowned.

 

Column #CM108 Meet the players – Wales

Friday, December 31, 2021
Column CM108
Meet the players – Wales

For the PDC World Championship 2021/22 five players from Wales qualified: Jim Williams, Lewy Williams, Nick Kenny, Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton. Price is the reigning champion, Clayton the most successful player throughout 2021. The two are connected by friednship and rivalry on stage. In the PDC World Cup they are a team – they won the event in 2020.

We saw a very similar constellation in the inaugural BDO World Championship. There also were two high class Welsh players who were the best of friends and big rivals and who played together – winning in winning the very first WDF World Cup: Alan Evans and Leighton Rees. Rees defeated Evans in the quarterfinals and won the tournament. At the 1979 BDO World Championship Rees again defeated Evans, this time in the semi-finals – but lost himself in the final against John Lowe.

Rees and Evans both took part several more times in the World Championship, Rees for the last time in 1990. Evans took part for the last time in 1988 (and in 1987 once again reached the semi-finals).

In this year’s World Championship Price and Clayton could have met in the quarterfinals as well.  Last year, Clayton lost in the third round to Joe Cullen – he could have met Price only in the final. This year, Clayton lost in the fourth round against a great playing Michael Smith.

But there were of course many more Welsh players who took part in both World Championships and there were a few more Welsh World Champions – though Price, so far, is the only one in the PDC.  But a few Welsh players appeared in the later rounds of the PDC World Championship – Jamie Lewis reached the semi-finals in 2018 and in 2002 and 2003 Richie Burnett stood in the quarterfinals.

In the BDO World Championship the Welsh fared better. After Leighton Rees we had with Richie Burnett in 1995 the next Wesh World Champion (he defeated Raymond van Barneveld in the final) and in both 1996 and in 1998 stood in the semi-finals. In 2008, Mark Webster followed – his opponent in the final was Simon Whitlock.

And in the last BDO World Championship played in 2020 we had an all Welsh final in which Wayne Warren defeated Jim Williams. Warren had his first appearance in the 2005 BDO World Championship where he lost third round to Mervyn King.

There was the sort of forgotten Welshman Ritchie Davies who in 2003 reached the final of the tournament – and lost to Raymond van Barneveld. Davies had qualified the first time for the 1997 World Championship and took part in it every year until 2004 when he stood in the quarterfinals.

Several more Welsh players can be found among the participants over the years – players like Sean Palfrey, Ceri Morgan, Peter Locke, James Marshall and Eric Burden were regulars in the 1980s until the mid 1990s.

In 1992, Martin Phillips for the first time took part and reached the quarterfinals. He returned in 1993 and 1994 and then took a break. In 2003 he was back and after 2007 he took part every year.  In 2010 and 2011 he stood in the semi-finals. All in all the number of participants in the BDO World Championship dropped over the years.

In the first years of the PDC World Championship between 1994 and 2000 no Welsh player took part. That finally changed when Richie Burnett switched to the PDC and from 2001 for some years qualified for the event.

In 2003 and 2007 Wayne Atwood qualified. In 2005, Alan Reynolds was the Welsh qualifier.  In 2006 we find Steve Alker – who was in 2001 among the participants in the BDO World Championship.  From 2007 to 2010 Barrie Bates represented Wales in the PDC tournament. He was joined in 2010 by Mark Webster, who had switched over from the BDO, and by Steve Evans who only qualified this year.  Burnett returned in 2012 and joined Webster for three more years.

In 2013 for the first time Jamie Lewis qualified by the Development Tour Order of Merit.

In 2015, Gerwyn Price appeared for the first time at Ally Pally (this year and the next one he qualified by the Pro Tour Order of Merit).  Two years later in 2017 Jonny Clayton made his debut.  In 2018 Mark Webster took a break and joined the commentating team of Sky Sports.  Price and Clayton stayed and were joined by various other Welsh players.

In 2021 Nick Kenny made his debut, in 2022 it was Jim Williams and Lewy Williams. Both Price and Clayton were at the start of the World Championship 2021/2022 among the favourites to win the title.

The best-known dart players from Wales are: 

Leighton Rees: Rees was born on January 17, 1940 and passed away on June 8, 2003.  Since 1976 he was a darts professional after he had – like Evans – become well-known as participant in the televised Indoor League.  In 1976, Rees reached the final of the News of the World and he won one year later, together with Evans and Rocky Jones, the inaugural WDF World Cup.  In 1978, Rees won the inaugural BDO World Championship. Although he didn’t win much more he remained for many years a popular player. From 1990 he often appeared toegther with his friend Alan Evans on the exhibition circuit.

Alan Evans: Evans was born June 14, 1949 and reached the final of the 1972 News of the World, the first ever televised tournament, and won the 1975 British Open – the first event to be televised by the BBC. In the same year he won the World Masters as well.  In 1977, he was member of the winning Welsh World Cup Team of the very first WDF World Cup. In the BDO World Championship he twice reached the semi-finals. Evans passed away at the age of 49 in 1999 after several years with health problems. Named after him is the 150 finish with three bullseyes.

Ceri Morgan: Morgan was born on December 22, 1947 and passed away on 29.  He took part in the BDO World Championship from 1979 to 1987 and in 1980, 1981 and 1984 stood in the quarterfinals.

Peter Locke: Locke had his BDO World Championship debut in 1983. He reached the quarterfinals in 1984 and 1986 – and in 1986 he defeated along the way, among other, Paul Lim.  In 2006, Locke reappeared in the UK Open but lost his first match.

Martin Phillips: Phillips was on April 30, 1960 and played from 1988 until 2019 on the BDO Circuit.  In 2010 and 2011 he reached the semi-finals of the BDO World Championship.  Over the years he won several tournaments and played his best year in 2014 when he won his only major event, the World Masters. At his World Championship debut 1991 he lost to Phil Taylor. With different partners – Eric Burden and Sean Palfrey – he won the WDF Europe Cup Pairs a number of times. In 2019, he took part for the last time in the BDO World Championship but lost first round.

Richie Burnett:  Burnett was born in 1967 and started his career after the split in 1994 were he won several BDO tournaments. He entered the BDO World Championship 1995 – his debut, as the number 2 seed – and won the title. On his way to the final he defeated Peter Wright in the first round. After he lost in the first round of the 199 BDO World Championship, he switched to the PDC (but took part until 2001 in the World Masters). Burnett was far less successful in the PDC than he had been in the BDO but in 2001 stood in the final of the World Matchplay where he lost to Phil Taylor. After that he lost his form, suffered from dartitis and had some financial problems.  In 2012, he returned and played together with Mark Webster as Team Wales until 2015 in the PDC Worlds. He then was tested positive for drugs and was banned from playing in the PDC.  In 2017, he won back his Tour Card but soon lost it again.

Wayne Warren: Warren was born on June 12, 1962 and in 2003 began to compete on the BDO Circuit.  In 2013, he won the BDO International Open – his first tournament win.  In 2005, he qualified for the first time for the BDO World Championship. In 2018, he stood in the quarterfinals and then in 2020 he won it. With the end of the BDO his career came to a standstill. In 2021, he took part without success in the PDC Qualifying School and now plays on the WDF Circuit.

Mark Webster: The 1983 born Webster played from 2005-2009 with a lot of success on the BDO Circuit but switched to the ODC after he won the BDO World Championship in 2008.  He had a few good years but then suffered from dartitis, slid down the rankings and lost his Tour Card.  So far, he has not tried to get it back.

Barrie Bates: Bates was born on October 17, 1969 and started to play on the PDC Circuit in 2002 and at first was successful in floor events. He was even the floor event player of the year in 2006. In the same year, he reached the final of the UK Open. In 2009, he stood in the quarterfinals of the PDC World Championship. In 2010, he reached, together with Mark Webster, the final of the inaugural PDC World Cup. In following years he had some problems both with injuries and gout and lost his Tour Card. He got it back in Qualifying School 2019.

Jamie Lewis: Lewis, born 1991, started his darts carreer in 2009 on the BDO Circuit, but soon switched to the PDC where he was most successful in floor events before reaching, out of the blue, the semi-finals of the 2018 PDC World Championship.  But after that he lost both his form and his Tour Card.  So far, he hasn’t gotten it back. Lewis suffers from an anxiety disorder.

Jim Williams: The 1984 born Williams played from 2012-2020 on the BDO Circuit and won several Open titles. In 2018, he stood in the semi-finals of the World Masters and in 2020 the final of the World Championship. After the end of the BDO he tried in vain to get a Tour Card.  So, Williams played on the PDC Challenge Tour and was so successful that he headed the UK Challenge Tour Order of Merit at the end of 2021. He was awarded a Tour Card for 2022.

Gerwyn Price:  Born in 1985, Price managed in a short time an unbelievable rise in the PDC.  Barrie Bates had met the former rugby player at some local tournaments and advised him to take part in Qualifying School – and Price earned a Tour Card 2014 in his first go.  In 2016, he won his first Players Championship. In 2017, he reached the final of the UK Open.  In 2018, he won the Grand Slam.  He defended his Grand Slam title in 2019, won the World Grand Prix in 2020 – and 2021 he won the World Championship, the World Matchplay and the Grand Slam. No other Welsh player has been so successful in the PDC.

Jonny Clayton: Born in 1974, Clayton played for a few years on the BDO Circuit before he switched to the PDC in 2015. He was not such a high-flyer as Gerwyn Price but in 2017 won his first Players Championship and in 2018 an European Tour event.  In 2020, together with Price, he won the PDC World Cup – and never looked back. In 2021, he won the Masters, the World Series Final, the Premier League and the World Grand Prix – to be sure he is the player of the year!

Lewy Williams: Williams was born on January 18, 2002 and started to play darts very recently, in 2017.  In 2020, he qualified via the Riley’s Amateur Qualifiers for the UK Open and played himself among the 64. In 2021, he got a Tour Card and qualified both for the European Championship and the current PDC World Championship.

 

Column #CM107 It’s that time of the year – Christmas in Greece!

Friday, December 24, 2021
Column CM107
It’s that time of the year – Christmas in Greece!

The PDC World Championship is always played during the Christmas season. People from all over the world travel to London and visit Alexandra Palace.  Some of them will stand on stage, many will go into the city and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere – but one can’t assume they are used to it or that what they experience in London is for them not just exotic…

…because Christmas is not celebrated alike everywhere in Great Britain let alone in Christian comminities around the world – traditions and customs differ a lot.

As we published earlier this week an interview with Greek darts player John Michael, our voyage through the Christmas season begins in Greece. Other stops will be in the Philippines and Wales.

Within Europe the differences between Christmas festivals are not as sognificant as they once were. In Greece, now-a-days we often find a very colourful Christmas tree in the sitting room and often the presents will be handed out on December 24 or 25.

Traditionally, the Christmas season in Greece starts forty days before Chrismas day with fasting.  From November 15 until Christmas no milk, eggs or meat are consumed. The proper Christmas season lasts twelve days and starts on December 24 when children go door-to-door like carolers. The songs they sing are supposed to bring luck and blessings and the children are rewarded with sweets and money.

In the evening, a fire will be lighted in the fireplace with a special piece of olive or pine wood saved for the occasion so that the Christ Child stays warm. This also keeps away the bad goblins which are up to mischief at this time of the year. The fire has to burn the complete twelve days of Christmas.

Beside the Christmas tree it is tradion to decorate a wooden boat with strings of light to remember all the seamen who are at sea over Chrismas. On December 25, Christmas is formally celebrated by the orthodox with a noisy and boisterous family party.

Traditionally, presents are handed out on the first of January and it is neither Father Christmas nor the Christ Child who brings the presents but Saint Vassilios – who on this day celebrates his saint’s day. He hides the presents under the beds of the children.

Vassilios is the patron saint of the children. Similar to Saint Nicholas he was a charitable bishop who cared for the poor and needy. Devoted to him is a special cake one eats on the first of January and in which a coin is hidden. Saint Vassilios is the patron saint of seafaring as well – another reason that the the ship is an important Christmas symbol in Greece.

The climax and end of the Christmas season is the sixth of January – the day on which Jesus from Nathareth was christened. On this day, houses and flats are blessed by the priests – with a spray of basil which was dipped into holy water.

Of course, as everywhere, in Greece one can find a traditional Christmas dinner which ends the fasting on December 25.  After typical Greek starters like Moussaka or Tsatsiki, a stuffed turkey is served. It is filled with mincemeat, sweet chestnuts, rice and noodles and several other ingredients and spices. So, you don’t even need any sides. The dinner is concluded with Melomakronas – a special pastry with a lot of honey.

As John Michael lost his match against Martijn Kleermaker, he will be at home in time for Christmas dinner.  I wish him a Merry Christmas!

Column #CM106 It’s that time of the year – Christmas in the Philippines!

Friday, December 24, 2021
Column CM106
It’s that time of the year – Christmas in the Philippines!

Lourence Ilagan lost his match against Raymond van Barneveld at Alexandra Palace in London and by now is probably back home enjoying Christmastime in the Philippines.

But in the predominantly christian Philippines, the Christmas season began some months ago – on September 1. At this time people start to decorate, often with starlike lanterns and lots of colourful strings of lights.  One can hear Christmas songs everywhere and the Christmas markets are opened. Children walk from house-to-house singing Christmas carols and get some small rewards.

All the action might look strange to as Europeans (with temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees celsius). There are no real Christmas trees – only some from plastic –  and often palm trees are decorated as Christmas trees.

The actual Christmas time starts on December 16 with the first of nine early morning masses, the first novene, which all begin before daybreak. When one manages to take part in all nine including the last one – the Misa Gallo on December 24 – a wish will be granted, at least that is what one hears.

On December 24, one could say the candle burns at both ends.  It will be a night that no one sleeps as after the Christmas midnight mass the Noche Buena will begin – a big family party, for which even Filipinos who live and work abroad travel back home. The children will stay up all night as well. The street lights will be on all night.  Families, friends, neighbors and relatives will come to visit and are invited to take part in the buffet.

The party will go on until 6:00 am. Those who were not able to visit the Christmas mass will go to church after the party.

The children will get their presents either during the Noche Buena or on December 25, but not from Santa.  In the Philippines the godfather will hand out the presents. But not only the children will get presents…

Everybody one has been in contact with during the year will get a small present, even the postman or the vendor from the supermarket.  In the center of the Noche Buena one will always find the matriarch, often the grandmother, and all children will line up before her to get some coins.  The older a child is the more coins he or she will get.

Of course, in the Philippines the Noche Buena food is always something special. Often a pigling, grilled meat or meat rolls will be served – and noodles and spaghetti can be found, and rice and rice cakes. And often there is some kind of fruit salad made from canned fruit decorated with coconut flakes.

Christmastime will end on the third Sunday in January with the Santo-Nino feast.

Maligayang Pasko to all dart playing and non-dart playing Filipinos – may all your wishes be fulfilled. Hopefully, in the years to come we will see more qualifiers from the Philippines on the Alexandra Palace stage!

 

Column #CM105 The World Championship… and the Philippines

Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Column CM105
The World Championship… and the Philippines

Not long ago, one often heard there were a lot of good darts players in the Philippines and that it was only a matter of time before we would see the first Philippine winner in an international competition. So far, it hasn’t happened and one of the reasons may be that the sport of darts is no longer as popular as it was in the Philippines – that people now prefer badminton and billiards.

But one of the biggest problems for the sport is that the darts infrastructure is poor. As the National Darts Federation of the Philippines (NDF) found out in a study, most of the darts players live in villages and the missing infrastucture is a very high hurdle for them.  In addition, there are no sponsors at all around for the sport. The NDF, which was founded 1998, believes the top priority must be to establish the necessary infrastucture to help the sport and offer the local darts organisations tools to help them. It will not be an easy task.

Nevertheless, for many years – from the very first year (2008) the PDC invited international qualifiers to take part in the World Championship – we have seen players from the Philippines on the stage at Alexandra Palace.

The first participant, in 2008, was Rizal Barellano, who was eliminated in the preliminary round by Miloslac Navratil and of whom we have never heard from again.

Next up, in 2009, for the first time was Lourence Ilagan who was eliminated in the preliminary round as well.

One year later, Christian Perez appeared.  He won his preliminary round match with an average of 94.53 but lost first round 1-3 to Robert Thornton.

In 2011, the not so well-known Juanito Gioson came on stage for the Philippines  but didn’t survive the preliminary round either.

In 2012, Christian Perez returned and again won his preliminary round match but again lost in the first round – this time to Alan Tabern.

Lourence Ilagan made his next appearance in 2013. He won his close preliminary round match against Jamie Lewis 4-3 but lost first round to Colin Osborne.

In 2014, Edward Santos qualified but was not able to travel to London.

Perez returned once again in 2015 but this time lost his first match 0-4 to Cristo Reyes.

In 2016,  Alex Targarao represented the Philippines but lost his first match 0-2 towas the qualifier – he lost his first match to Keita Ono.

Gilbert Ulang fared no better in 2017.

In 2018, no player from the Philippines took part in the World Championship but in 2019 two appeared. Lourence Ilagan  lost his first round match despite an 95.25 average against Vincent van der Voort. The second player, Noel Malicdem, won his first round match agaist Jeffrey de Graaf before losing second round to Kyle Anderson.

The same duo reappeared in 2020 and the same happened – Ilagan lost first round to Cristo Reyes while Malicdem won his first round match but lost in the second round to Peter Wright.

Due to the Corona pandemic 2021 was a difficult year for international qualifiers but nevertheless Lourence Ilagan returned but lost to Ryan Murray in the first round.

Of course, Corona is still a problem but Ilagan made it back this year once again –  only to lose without a chance to Raymond van Barneveld in the first round.

It is interesting to observe that while in Europe Ilagan is the best known player from the Philippines he is not outstandingly ranked. In the NDF men’s rankings from January, he only is ranked 18th – far behind the leading Malicdem, who nationally seems to be the dominate player.

Malicdem was as well “Darter of the Year” in 2016, 2017 and 2020 while Ilagan never has been since the NDF introduced the award in 2014. He reached second place once, in 2018, but in some years can’t be found anywhere at all in the Darter of the year ranking.

More often, Christian Perez can be found.  In 2014, he was 2014 Darter of the year and often placed quite high.

The Philippines don’t seem to be a member of the WDF – perhaps they are, but not one player from the Philippines appears in the WDF rankings.

Of course Corona didn’t spare the Philippine darters who probably all will lack match practice.

The best known players from the Philippines are…

Lourence Ilagan – who plays not only steel darts but is a very successful soft darts players as well. His nickname is The Gunner and he uses Monster Gunner darts. He plays on the PDC Asian Tour and not only took part in several PDC World Championships but played with different partners in the PDC World Cup as well.

Currently, Noel Malicdem seems to be the strongest Philippine player. Malicdem also plays on the PDC Asian Tour where, when the Tour was played for the first time in 2018, he threw a nine-darter. In 2019 and 2020 he, together with Ilagan, represented the Philippines at the PDC World Cup. Malicdem, “The Gentle Giant,” plays with 18g darts.

Rizal Barellano, born 1965, reached in 2006 the quarterfinals of the Asia Pacific Cup and was the first Philippine player invited to the PDC World Championship. It doesn’t appear that he is still playing.

Paolo Nebrida is a young upcoming player who, in 2014 and 2018 the final of the Malaysian Open. In 2018, he qualified for the PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship and reached the last 16. He is quite successful on the PDC Asian tour as well. Together with Lourence Ilagan he qualified for the PDC World Cup 2021 but as he was only vaccinated with Sputnik V he was not allowed to enter Germany.

The 1979 born Gilbert Ulang, who represented his home country together with Ilagan in the PDC World Cup 2015, is more infamous then well-known. He qualified for the PDC World Championship 2017 and there lost in the preliminary round to debutant Kevin Simm. But something fishy was alleged to have occured in that match and Ulang was banned from PDC tournaments until December 2023 for match fixing. He continues to compete in tournaments in the Philippines.

There are, of course, female players as well in the NDF but outside of the Philippines and beyond Asia little is known about them.

Column #CM104 Interview with John Michael

Thursday, December 16, 2021
Column CM104
Interview with John Michael

John Michael has been a player for decades.  So far, he is the first player from Greece to establish a reputation.  He is the first, and so far only, Greek with a PDC Tour Card.  Before the PDC World Championship 2021/22 (his fourth PDC World Championship) he kindly answered for me a few questions…

John – you certainly are a darts legend.  How did you come into contact with the sport?

Thank you for the compliment.  Well, when I was a teenager – I used to riding so I met a lot of English people who played darts for fun of course.  Then I stuck – I liked the challenge that darts makes you feel, and I found a darts team where I could play for more than fun.  And that was it.  I kept darts in my life, and I tried to play professionalyl and do more and more for the sport that I love.

Is the sport of darts widespread in Greece and is it more soft-tip or steel- tip?

No, unfortunately it is not.  There are more people than in the past who play darts, but Greece can’t compete with central Europe countries in that field.  Steel tip is the most widespread.

Are there some young and upcoming players in Greece we can look forward to watching?

Yes, we have twins, Dimitris and Hilias Tsalikis – fourteen years old, who are playing already very good and we try to support them and their darts future.

You’ve been around the sport for a long time – how do you manage to stay interested?

I always try to win and to reach my personal goals. In every single moment I try to exceed myself.  I‘ve loved darts since I was a little boy and every time I stand at the oche-line I feel like it is my first time playing.  I have the same love and passion as the very first time. My secret is to win for myself!

Do you still practice and if so, what do you practice? And do you do something special to prepare for the World Championship?

My practice is based on doubles and combinations with high finishes from 121 and up. I also use metal training and I try to gain physical stamina with swimming.

Do you know your opponent and is it for you in any way important who you are playing against?

Yes, I know my opponent – we met in the past.  For me, with the respect I have for any opponent, it doesn’t matter who is the opponent on the line. The opponent for me is always John Michael. You see, we have first to control and win ourselves – then the real win will come.

You are a Tour Card holder – how difficult is travelling at the moment for you due to Corona?

Very difficult with or not Corona!  You see, Greece, like all the countries that are not in central Europe – they all have big travelling issues. The transportation is expensive and with many middle stops.  So, that causes players to have an extra tiredness, especially when the tournaments are frequent.  Corona causes all the players an extra “cost and effort“ to keep the distances, to be careful not to have any contacts before the travel. We must be careful to be able to participate. This situation is everywhere, it’s global, so we must to comply with the rules.

I suppose you are not a full-time professional – do you have a sponsor or sponsors who support you financially?

I am a full-time professional, but I also have my sponsors.  Will Lazard’s ZWA sport management is my basic sponsoring company, and Will Lazard is my manager.  Trhere are also Dartsline.com (my e-eshop) and DEHOLL physiotherapy institute. 

What is your profession?  And how are you able to combine your job and playing darts?

I have my own darts e-shop – dartsline.com. This job is flexible, and it can fit in my schedule because I don’t have a specific business time to work – I can work remote or at night. My wife also helps me when I am abroad and this how I combine job and darts.

You often show strong matches when playing on stage.  Do you prefer playing on the big stage to playing in floor tournaments?

Of course, I prefer to play to big stages instead of floor tournaments. The feeling is so phenomenal that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Are there many tournaments in Greece? And are some played on the stage in front of a crowd as well?

Unfortunately Greece hasn’t many tournaments. Only local events and these are quite small.

When you look back at all the years in your career – are the players now better then when you started to play?

The level is higher than in the past, and as every year passes the level becomes higher. This is our challenge as professionals players – to become better than the last year and drive professional darts to a unique spectacle. 

And would you say, you yourself dveloped as a player and can develop still further?

Yes definitely. I feel that I have a lot to give the darts community. I try to develop my personal skills year after year and I feel that people haven’t yet seen my full potential.

What for you was your biggest success in darts so far and what do you still hope to achieve?

I have forty-one titles and it is very difficult to decide what was the biggest success because the effort was remarkable for all of them.  I hope to achieve my participation in the World Championship every year from now on.