Billiards in memory of M.J.M. Lafir | Daily News

Billiards in memory of M.J.M. Lafir

Plans are afoot over here in Kandy together with the President of the Sri Lanka Billiards and Snooker Association Zurais Hashim to introduce a Billiard series between Kandy and MICH cueists for a trophy in memory of the first World title winner in any sporting field, M.J.M. Lafir, who won the world billiards title in 1973 and made our country Sri Lanka proud. The first tournament is expected to be cued off at the Kandy Club.

M.J.M. Lafir who was born on 27th day of May, 1930 at St. Joseph's street, Grandpass to S.L.M. Juanid and Salaha Ummuna. He had two brothers Farad and Izzeth and a sister Hinaya. He came into the scene, to play billiards when he was seven years old that is the time his father won the snooker championship of Awwal

Zavi Road Billiards Club beating his uncle A.M.A. Marzook. It was this success that made M.J.M Lafir to try out his skill. It was on 17th of April 1981, one month before his 51st birthday this great man who put Sri Lanka Sports on the World Map, breathed his last while his family members and close friends were by his bed side.

While studying at Hameediah Boys English School, at New Moor Street Colombo 12, M.J.M Lafir started his Billiards and Snooker first on a quarter size table then on a half size table. Later he graduated to a full size table at Hulftsdrop in a Billiards parlour - which as popularly known as the "Handi-Kaday" owned by I.L.M. Shaul

Hameed and "Crystal Place" Naeem Nana. The former encouraged M.J.M Lafir and often gave him the concession of paying the 30 cents for the half hour game whenever he could sometimes writing it off. He played in this parlor ever afraid that he may one day be discovered by his father. One day it happened and when

his father chased him out, his father friends intervened, why do you want to stop him? He is playing top billards; one day he may be a champion. As his father's friends predicted M.J.M Lafir soon became a champion. Later when A.R.M. Mukthar took over the parlor and promoted regular Billiard and Snooker

championships., and M.J.M Lafir was able to in win the tile for three successive years, beating M.M. Faiz, M. Noordeen and M.M. Faiz again. Then A.R.M. Mukthar, seeing this advised M.J.M Lafir , this is a club and everyone likes to win, and told M.J.M. Lafir not to take part in the tournament again, and to give others a chance.

His fame would have been lost in the "desert air" of Hulftsdorp but for two happenings. Then he joined the MICH (Moors Islamic Cultural Home) in 1947 and played for them in their regular friendly games with other clubs and the founding of the Ceylon Amateur Billiards Association in 1948 M. J. M Lafir was much grateful to the MICH for discovering him, nurturing him, grooming him for a big billiards and to the Ceylon Amateur Billiards Association for providing the opportunity to play against visiting champions and to go overseas for international competitions.

Though he was unafraid of facing the cue greats on the table he had one handicap, that was his lack of adequate knowledge of the English Language, which would have helped him to familiarize and mix with the other players in tournaments. He was progressing well as a standard 2 student at Hameediah Boys English School. But

when a teacher slapped his elder brother Farad, his father in a rage, stopped both farad and Lafir from attending school. But dedicated and determined M.J.M Lafir overcame this handicap by learning to speak English with both his local opponents and abroad.

He mastered the language so well that he soon began to joke and "rag" his opponents on the international field and won their hearts.

The launch - pad for many of his triumphs overseas and boosting Sri Lanka's image overseas was the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake's cheque for Rs. 100.00 which started the fund to send M.J.M Lafir overseas to train and play with world champions. Said the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. as he was known, send Lafir out, his future is there. How right the Prime Minster was.

So, this spot was able to produce Sri Lanka her only world champion in an individual game apart from team game cricket, which Sri Lanka won the Wills World Cup in 1996.

Today it is only MICH which organizes a tournament in memory of this great cueist.evry two yeas, last was in 2014 March, the next will be in 2016 March.

With vetran Nimal Mansoor as the Chairmanof the tournament. The Asian snooker tournament was introduced in memory of M.J.M. Lafir.

Now the tournament is in operation but the cup and name of M.J.M Lafir is unfortunately missing. This tournament came in to being because of late Maurice H Kerr of Thailand the first President of the Asian Billiards and Snooker Association, and the late Firouse Saheed of Sri Lanka who was the Vice President of the Asian B & S A and President of Sri Lanka Cue sport. The M.J.M. Lafir memorial cup was made in Kandy and the tournament went for many years, today there is no one who is capable of bringing back this trophy for this tournament, the ideal person who can do is the present Billiards and Snooker Association president Zurais Hashim.

Turning back the pages of time it was in 1973 that MJM Lafir crowned himself as world champion winning the World Amateur Billiards Championship held in Bombay beating India's Sathis Mohan in the final.

He also added to his crown a world record break of 859 points in one set against Erick Simons of New Zealand in the same tournament.

No other sportsman dominated the game so much as Lafir did, in the cue sport.

He reigned supreme for 24 years between 1949 to 1973, he annexed the National Billiards title of Sri Lanka 16 times and the National Snooker title on 15 separate occasions.

Not satisfied, he went across to the Indian National Snooker title won on seven occasions from 1956 to 1976, defeating some of the best Indian Stalwarts. M.J. M. Lafir's achievement was commendable to Sri Lanka at that time. After his death before his 53 birth anniversary on 17th April, the Colombo Municipal Council re-named Messenger Street, as M.J.M. Lafir Mawatha, that was a tribute to him.

During the presidency of Jagath Sumathipala, in 1988 when the 5th MJM Lafir Asian tournament was played in Colombo, with backing coming form then minister M., H. Mohamed, a stamp for the value of Rs. 5.75 was issued. The Maestro is no more but people in Sri Lanka will ever remember him for his contribution to our soil. 

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