As a Sri Lankan, speaking of glory and recognition in the sporting arena, the first memory that comes to one’s mind is undoubtedly the 1996 cricket world cup at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
Then comes Susanthika Jayasinghe’s irreplaceable achievement at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
But how many of us have heard of the great M J M Lafir?
Muhammad Junaid Muhammad Lafir goes down into the history books as the first man who brought honour and everlasting recognition to Sri Lanka in the sporting arena.
He emerged as the World Amateur Billiards Champion, bringing utmost glory to his motherland by overcoming the likes of professionals from across the world in 1973.
The significance of his achievement remained in the fact that he became the champion of the world individually and not as a team. Lafir’s victory was second to none as he completely tore apart his opponents with tremendous mentality and determination.
Regardless of his unbeatable run in 1973, the best of his abilities were showcased in the finals against Satish Mohan of India. It was indeed his attacking nature and concentration that assisted him in beating Mohan that day.
Before 1973, Lafir did come close to a few finals but eventually failed to deliver in the crucial stages of the competition.
M J M Lafir’s Personal Life
Born before independence in May 1930, M J M Lafir was quite an early started as he learned to play billiards at the age of seven. His first mentor was his own father.
Using a broomstick, he managed to learn the art of billiards at the age of 12. Lafir attended Hameediah Boys English School back then.
By mastering the art of billiards in his initial club, Lafir started playing professional billiards for MICH (Moors Islamic Cultural Home). This was indeed the turning point of Lafir’s life as he worked himself through to represent his club in national tournaments and fortunately made his way to the international stage.
As time passed, Lafir learnt the English language quite effectively, managing to freely communicate with his opponents. He was eventually sent overseas by the prime minister SWRD Bandaranayake for exposure and training.
All this hard work paid off as Lafir emerged as the best in the world, bringing glory to Sri Lanka for the first time ever. He scored a record-breaking 859 in just one set against Erick Simons of New Zealand in the same tournament. He was unplayable in the world championship in 1973.
Lafir’s other achievements
By winning the first national championship in 1948, Lafir continued his form to complete 17 national championship wins and 16 billiards championship wins during his career. Extending his achievements further, Lafir went to India and won the Indian National Snooker title on seven occasions.
Remembering the Maestro M J M Lafir
Sadly, Lafir passed away on the 26th of April 1981, leaving nothing but everlasting memories in the sporting arena. Sri Lanka certainly did mourn his death back then but a very few of us remember this great man today.
In memory of him, the Colombo Municipal Council renamed Messenger Street as M J M Lafir Mawatha. Alternatively, a stamp was issued for his remembrance.
The MICH does their part by organising a tournament in memory of the great maestro.
Meanwhile, the Asian tournament formerly named under M J M Lafir is no longer using his name in the trophy. Nevertheless, the tournament is still in operation.
M J M Lafir’s achievements are sadly no longer commemorated or remembered in the modern world. His individual title win has not yet been matched by any other Sri Lankan sportsmen as of yet.
Despite being offered houses and cars from various foreign nations, Lafir did not sway away but remained a true Sri Lankan until the end.
/ 2 years ago
0Shares Share on Facebook Tweet 215960Shares Share on Facebook Tweet