Nine years ago, Filipino Marlon Manalo went against conventional wisdom and took up a sport that didn't have many followers back home. In fact, snooker is still to this day so unpopular in the Philippines that there are only six tables in the whole country of 74 million people. American pool was the craze in the Philippines and home-grown world nine-ball champion Efren 'Bata' Reyes was worshipped by millions back home. Snooker? Get out of here. Nobody wanted to play the game - except Manalo. The 24-year-old saloon owner from Manila knew his switch from American pool to snooker was the right one when he won the 17th Asian Championship at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium last night. He beat Thailand's Noppadon Sangnil in a closely fought final 8-6 that took almost 10 hours to complete. 'I started playing snooker when I was 16 after initially playing nine-ball. I was told that I had potential to become champion at snooker. I'm glad I made the switch,' said Manalo, the first Filipino to win the Asian title. One of the people who convinced Manalo to switch allegiance was Joaquin Perez de Tagle, president of the Billiard and Snooker Congress of the Philippines. 'He couldn't be number one at American pool because Bata Reyes was too good, so he became number one in the country in snooker and now he's the Asian champion,' he said. Manalo said he had his father, Claro, to thank for helping him realise his potential. 'He would drive for about an hour, early in the morning, to the nearest snooker table in Manila and we started practising together. He taught me how to position the ball and he was probably one of the biggest influences in my life,' said Manalo, who was also a finalist at the Asian Championship three years ago. Manalo pulled ahead 5-2 in frames but Noppadon gradually closed the gap to 6-5 in the second session. Manalo moved to a 7-5 lead before Noppadon took an error-strewn 13th frame to reduce arrears at 7-6. But the Filipino, playing more confidently, built a 41-27 lead after a break of 30. Noppadon came back into the picture at 48-41 after clearing 21 points, but he made a crucial mistake on the final blue for Manalo to wrap up the match by clearing blue to black. 'There was a lot of pressure on me,' said Manalo, who took a sip of water before sinking the final black. 'He was coming back at me and I was getting tired. I only had five hours' sleep last night because my semi-final match didn't finish until 1 am,' said Manalo.