The name M.J.M Lafir goes down in the annals of billiards as an unsung hero, despite winning the World Amateur Billiards Championships in 1973.
Lafir won the first ever prestigious trophy for the country in Bombay in a round robin contest against Indian Satish Mohan. Lafir also scored the highest break of 859, in 49 minutes and 47 seconds, an achievement which hasn’t been equaled to date. This was the first World title in any discipline won by Sri Lanka. This sporting legend passed away 35 years ago on April 26, 1981.
It was truly a fine performance, at a time when scant respect was paid for sports. Sportsmen received pittance and less recognition for their performances. He also holds many records in the Sri Lankan and Indian Billiards and Snooker Championships which no Sri Lankan or Indian has been able to break up to now.
‘MJM’ achieved all this in a very short period. He was a master of the green table. At an age of 12, Lafir mastered the sport, learned his craft by using the broomstick as a cue. The home dining table served as the playing table. Marbles were used as balls. Cycle tubes provided the cushions. Sarongs were used as the cloth. Inspired by his father, M.J.M. Lafir pursued his passion and perfected his playing. At the age 18 he was playing professional sport. He won the national championship in 1948.
He went on to win the National Snooker Championship 17 times and the Billiards Championship 16 times.
In 1973, he overcame all odds defeating strong contenders at the world cue table. His excellent performance and display helped him crown himself as the World Billiard Champion. It was his attacking nature and his trade mark cuing that won him the World title.
It is a victory that lingers in the memory of every Sri Lankan cueist. He was offered many financial incentives by foreign countries, which included property and cars, but he remained a true Sri Lankan by turning down all offers.
M.J.M. Lafir will be remembered as a legend in green blazer who tantalized opponents with his fine moves.
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.