Aden hands out lessons, humbles Ugandans

Top pool players pose for a photo with Aden (C) at Black Sheep Arena in Mukono. Second right is countrymate Jeaven Rivaldo. PHOTO/GEORGE KATONGOLE 

What you need to know:

Joseph Aden, nicknamed The Ghost or PlayStation, is one of the fastest pool players, you will ever have meet. While on a week-long tour to Uganda, the South African finished a game against Glorious Ssenyonjo in under 60 seconds after taking a break! He is Africa’s number one for a reason. Fast thinker, great risk taker, calm and composed when he is forced to chase games like it was against in Uganda against Caesar Chandiga, when he needed five frames against one to win and he came out victorious, Aden is not an ordinary player. The 25-year-old faced five Ugandan challengers, winning all of them in style. He spoke to George Katongole on what makes him Africa’s number one player.

Who is Aden?

I am Joseph Carl Aden from Western Cape South Africa, I am married to Gabby, whom I dated from high school and we have one son.

I have been playing pool since I was six years old. My dad, Dean Joseph used to play pool and I started going to the bars with him wherever he was playing. My dad was quite good in his days; he was never the South African champion but he was very good.  He inspired me to play pool. He used to play pool every Sunday. That time I was like five or six years.

When did you think that pool is the sport for you?

I even don’t know. I have been playing since six years. The first national tournament I played I was seven years old in 2006. I lost in the last eight of the men’s championship.

How did it feel playing among men at that time?

Honestly, I can’t remember. But my dad always reminds me of that time and he was very proud of me.

How did you move to the next step?

From that time, I started playing pool every single day of my life. I was practising a lot and that is how I become who I am today.

Were you still playing in bars even without your dad?

Even in South Africa, pool is mainly played in bars but we are more advanced in the game than most parts of Africa. Because we have equipment such as pool tables made in South Africa and we have pool-only venues as well. So, we are quite advanced.

Was your mother proud of you then?

I don’t think she was proud but she is very happy of what I am now.

You have been a successful junior player in South Africa. When did you win your first championship?

My first championship win was in 2014. That year I did very well. I won the U18, U23 South African championship and I lost the All Africa final. I also lost in the World championship semifinal. That is my best year in my career.

You are the All Africa Pool champion and the 2014 World Junior champion. What titles stand out for you?

Well, last year I won the All Africa championship in Zambia. I have been to the world Games where I lost in the quarterfinals. But I have been to many places – I have been to Dubai, I have been to China. I have travelled the world to play pool. The biggest one I have won is becoming the World Blackball Championship in Perth, Scotland in 2014. It opened the gates for me in pool. All others are riding on that junior title.

You play various versions of pool. How do you manage it?

I play Blackball, nine-ball, Chinese 8-ball (now called Heyball), snooker, name it. I am very active in them all. Pool is my everything but at the moment I am shifting to nine-ball.

The World Heyball Masters Championship are coming up in China later this month, are you going?

No, I will not go. Honestly, I feel the players there are too good for us and we can’t compete with them. That is even the reason I stopped playing Chinese 8-ball because I have been there several times and I don’t think there is any player from Africa, who can beat them. I am no longer interested in Chinese pool. It's a very tough game. Basically it is 8-ball on a 9ft snooker table. That is why you see regulars who play it all the time are normally the winners.

You were the only player from Africa to take part in the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, United States. Tell me about your experience at the Games where you narrowly lost to the World number one Albin Ouschan 11-8 in the quarterfinals?

I lost to Ouschan but honestly it wasn’t a loss for me. Winning eight racks against such a fierce challenger was a great from me. No one gave me a chance.  For me being there was an achievement because I wanted to test myself among the world’s best. I trained a lot and was set but I lost to them. The World Games opened my eyes to take the game much more seriously because it was the best event I have ever attended in my life.

What keeps you motivated to play pool?

At this moment pool is my bread and butter. It’s the only thing I do. This is my only source of income.

How often do you battle against other players?

In South Africa, I don’t get challengers anymore. No one wants to play me. So I started figuring out for myself what to do by playing in as many tournaments outside South Africa as I can possibly get.

Do you have sponsors that keep you moving across the globe?

I don’t have sponsors. I play with my own money. I basically play money games and tournaments with cash prizes. That’s it.

You have been in Uganda, what is your impression?

This is my first time in Uganda. It is a very nice country. I have liked it. I have been to the centre of the world at the equator. It’s one of the big things I have achieved being here. About the players, they are very good. I know them all and have played some before. I have seen others play in All Africa championships. They are all good players, it’s just about who gets lucky on the day.

Did you say luck? Most people think you are just a good player.

It’s not only luck but you need to be lucky many times in pool to be able to win.

How do you rate the Ugandan players, especially Caesar Chandiga and Ibra Sejjemba, who stretched your limits?

In African pool, I don’t fear anybody. I know I am a good player and only need some luck to beat all of them.

What’s your plan now?

From Uganda I am going to Kenya where I have three guys to play and then afterwards I want to go into nine-ball full time when I return to South Africa. I love nine-ball because like the T20 of cricket- its fast, fun, interesting and there’s a lot of luck involved. Nine- ball is not only about attacking, but you also have to be very good in your defending game. You may need to snooker the player or put your competitor in a position where he cannot attack.  Nine-ball is not big in South Africa since it was only introduced in 2018 so I will have to go Europe and America to meet the challengers.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a player?

Well, there are plenty of challenges in pool because right now pool in South Africa has not been a very big success and there is a lot of politics. So, it is pushing all of us good players out. We don’t know where we stand because there is South African Pool Union (SAPU), there is Pool South Africa (PSA) and Snooker and Billiards South Africa (SBSA). As players, we don’t know where we are. As a player, for the last three years, I have not been interested in playing their tournaments.

How do you keep being Africa’s number one?

[Chuckles] I don’t know. Honestly I don’t know how to answer you. I don’t train anymore. I am gifted and I normally train in games. That is what I can say because every day of the week, I am playing someone.


Joseph Carl Aden

Nickname: PlayStation, The Ghost, Predator

Date of birth: June 13, 1997

Country: South Africa

Major honours: 2014 Junior World Champion, 2022 All Africa Champion.