M.J.M. Lafir – World Billiards Champion 1973

MJM Lafir billiardsThe unique success of Muhammad Junaid Muhammad Lafir in winning the World Amateur Billiards Championship in Bombay, in November-December 1973, being victorious against all his opponents and also scoring the highest break of 859, is an achievement without parallel in the annals of Sport in Sri Lanka.

Prior to this pinnacle of his success, MJM Lafir had participated in international championships in Billiards and Snooker in Edinburg, Scotland, Malta, and Auckland New Zealand, since 1970, but had not won any of them.

At the World Snooker Tournament in Edinburgh, Scotland, in Oct-Noc 1970, Lafir defeated IL Glozier (NZ), aul Mifsud (Malta), John Clint (N Ireland), D Sneddon (Scotland), but lost to John Phillips (Scotland) and Sidney Hood (England).

At the World Amateur Billiards Championships in Valeta, Malta, in Nov 1971, Lafir finished fourth defeating D Sneddon (Scotland), Paul Mifsud (Malta), Lance Napper (NZ) and losing to Manuel Fransisco (South Africa) in the preliminary rounds.

In Nov-Dec 1972, at the World Open Billiards Championship, hel in Auckland, New Zealand, in which professionals as well as amateurs participated, Lafir lost to Clark McConachy (NZ), Eddie Charlton (Australia), Paddy Morgan (Ireland), Satish Mohan (India), Leslie Driffield (England) and Michael Ferreira (India) but won against C Everton (Wales), Jim Fryer (England), Kinsley Kennerly (England) and Jack Karneham (England). He failed to qualify for the Final Round.

Lafir won the World Amateur Billiards Championship, held in Bombay in Nov-Dec 1973, defeating all his opponents, viz; Clive Everton (Wales), Michael Ferreira (India), LU Demarco (Scotland), Alfred Nolan (England), Satish Mohan (India), Eric Simons (NZ), Brian Kirkness (NZ), Phil Tarrant (Australia), and Paul Mifsud (Malta.

On his return to Sri Lanka, after winning the title of World Amateur Billiard Champion, Lafir was given a red-carpet welcome on Dec 22 1973, and hosts of other receptions were awarded to him in celebrating the momentous and historical achievement. He was received and garlanded at the Airport by the Hon KB Ratnayake, Minister of Sports & Parliamentary Affairs, Hon Dr NM Perera, Minister of Finance, Hon Dr Badiudin Mahmud, Minister of Education, Hon Leslie Gunawardena, Minister of Transport, Mr I A Cader, Deputy Speaker, Sir Razik Fareed and officials of the Billiards Control Council and the MICH.

Lafii and his wife, Misriya, were conducted in a long motorcade from the Bandaranaike International Airport through the more populous streets of Colombo where large crowds gathered to welcome him home and cheer his victory. He was given a rousing welcome at the MICH Fort and conducted to the Hall where many speeches of felicitation and honor were given by the VIP’s present. A felicitation dinner was also arranged by the MICH, in honor of Lafir, at the Hotel Taprobane on Sunday Dec 23, 1973, where a bevy of 150 important and significant guests attended.

Lafir and his wife were also accompanied by the Hon Dr Badiudin Mahmud to pay courtesy calls on His Excellency Mr William Gopallawa, Governor General, and Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime Minister, both of whom received him with right royal cordiality.

The Colombo Municipal Council accorded a civic reception in honor of MJM Lafir on Dec 31, 1973 with the Mayor, Mr Vincent Perera in the chair.

MJM Lafir made a valiant attempt to score a prestigious double when he participated in the World Amateur Snooker Championship in Dublin, Ireland, in Nov 1974. Although he won six of the eight matches he played in the preliminary rounds he lost in the quarter finals. Lafir won against ray Edmonds (England), holder and utlimate winner of the title, Shyam Shroff (India), John Skelazeski (Canada), Des Sheehan (Ireland), Geoff Thomas (Wales) and Patrick Donnelly (NZ) while he lost to Norman Stockman (NZ) and Eddie Sinclair (Scotland). He was beaten in the quarter finals by Pasqual Burke (Ireland) by 3 frames to 4. In the final round Ray Edmonds (reigning champion, England) beat Geoff Thomas (Wales) by 11 frames to 9.

After his death, the Colombo Municipal Council renamed Messenger Street, as M.J.M. Lafir Mawatha. His club MICH conducts a cue tournament in his memory. Fitting tribute was paid to him with the issuing of a stamp in his name.

M.J.M. Lafir will be remembered as a legend in green blazer who tantalized opponents with his fine moves.


Acknowledgement:

We would like to thank Mr. Fazli Sameer for generously giving us permission to use all material contained in his, “Sri Lanka Genealogy” websites and blogs.


Reference:

1. Hafiz Marikar, Did Sri Lanka do enough for MJM Lafir?, Nation
2. Hafiz Marikar, Billiards in memory of M.J.M. Lafir, Daily News
3. IBSF World Billiards Championship, Wikipedia

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