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Thursday, 24 January 2013

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U.W.Sumathipala gave his life for Billiards and Snooker

U.W. Sumathipala was considered a legend and gave his best during his life time for Snooker. In late 1980's to early 1990's the Billiards and Snooker Association of Sri Lanka (BSASL) and the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association, played a Snooker test, the inaugural test was played in 1989 from December 21 to 26, which was organized by BSASL. It was a dual snooker championship with three test matches. The first was played in Nuwara Eliya at the Grand Hotel, and the second at Kandy Garden Club organized by this writer, the third in Colombo at the Galadari Meriden hotel.

This idea for this test came from Jagath Sumathipala, the man who gave his best for the cue sport when he was president, the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker President Ali Asgi Valika the person who did all the hard work to make it a grand success in organizing was Capt. Sarath J de Alwis who was the Secretary General of the BSASL.

The others who were in the organizing committee were Ananda Weerakoon, Trevor Bultjens, Ramly Vilcasim, D.G. Daluwatte, A. Gunasekara, Sam de Silva, S.M.Sharwadi and Ameen Bhaila.

Pakistan team was made out of cueist in the caliber of Taneer Dada, Mohameed Usoof, Naveeni Perwan, Sarwar Ajaz Siddiqui, Mansoor Karm Shaikh, Mohamed Younus and Imran Puri. Sri Lanka team comprised players like M.H. Raibin, Henry Boteju and M.J. "Chutti" Mansoor, M.S.M. Naufer, Indika Dodngoda, Susantha Boteju, Abdul Latif and K.H. Sirisoma who won the National title for the 21st occasion a few days back.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are well known for their sporting traditions and they are the founder members of the Asian Billiards and Snooker Federation. This test series went off for about five years and it was one of the most looked forward snooker tournaments of the year for both countries and the winner was presented with a handsome sterling silver cup and cash awards, sadly today this series is unheard.

At one time Billiards and snooker was a popular sport in the country. This sport produced the first ever Sri Lankan World Champion late M.J.M. Lafir, who was also two time number two the Asian Snooker tournament.

Late U.W.Sumathipla made valuable contribution for the cue sport, after his death his family continued. He was an ever jovial person and an ardent lover of the cue sport.

He was one man who in spite of his manifold business commitments made it a point to play either of the games during the day and night specially at his favorite club Anglers Sports Club of which club he was the president at the time of his death.

He initiated the late M.J.M. Lafir from his early days to engage in long practice session at his club tables to train Lafir before the first ever World Amateur Billiard Championships. When M.J.M Lafir won the World Championship in 1973 in Bombay Sumathipla was there with him. U.W. as he was called made it a point to be present at Lair's match and practice sessions and encouraged him to the hilt.

Having seen Lafir making a break of 500 in Billiards on one occasion he had told Lafir one day you will become the world champion and Sumathipala would share the honor with him by his presence. As promised he accompanied Lafir to Bombay and not only did he become his personnel confident but also looked after his material and financial needs.

True to his prediction Lafir became the World Amateur Billiard Champion and the proud Sumathipala landed on Sri Lankan soil with the World Champion for a red carpet welcome. After Sumathipala's death his good wife Milina Sumathipala and his sons Jagath and Thilanga gave a big helping hand for the cue sport in no small measure. When the Billiards and Snooker headquarters was housed at Reid Avenue, renovation of the premises was done by the courtesy of the Sports Minister. The Sumathipala family made the biggest contribution towards this. In 1986 during the time of the 3rd Asian Snooker Championship which was held in Sri Lanka, U.W. Sumthipala Memorial Billiards Hall was opened at the Race Course head quarters.

His son Jagath who was one time president of the Sri Lanka Billiards and Snooker Association and Asian Snooker Association followed his father's footsteps and gave a big hand to promote the game. He organized an Asian and a World Championship in Sri Lanka and during his presidency this writer was the Manager of the Sri Lanka team and knows how Jagath helped the game. He sponsored several cueist when they go on tours for championships.

One should know the brief history of the Billiards and Snooker Association of Sri Lanka. Although Billiards had been played in Sri Lanka almost from the early 1900's, people viewed the game with some caution. This was due to some of the hotels which had Billiard rooms using the signboards indicated "BAR AND BILLAIRDS" this was to invite all fans. This close association of the Bar with Billiards as service to the game.

However the formation of the Ceylon Amateur Billiards association (which was the origin name of the present Billiards and Snooker Association of Sri Lanka in May 1948 did much to establish the game of billiards as a respected sport in this country.

The credit of this is due to large measures to the former sports editor of the Daily News M.M. Thawfeeq the then Billiards Secretary of the MICH (Moors Islamic Cultural Home) from Dematagoda.

It was he who convened the first meeting of the Billiard playing clubs in the country. Eight Clubs responded to this invitation and the meeting was on May 30, 1948 at MICH Dematagoda.

The Club and delegates were Siri Perera, le de Soysa (SSC), M.C.F.Abeyakoon, R. Batuwantudawe (Colombo YMBA) J. Wijeyartham, R.,B.Tammita (Central YMCA) A.J.M. Sadiq, S.T.M. Rauf, A.J.M. Jabir (Excelsior Billiards Club) Dunstan de Silva, Bernard Mendis (Bandarawela Tennis Club) Maj. A. F de Saa Bandaranayake (Galle Gymkhana Club) M.Y.M. Mushoor, A.R.M. Saleem, M.Izzet Zaiudeen (MICH). Letters of absence assuring full support was sent form Kandy YMMA, Kotehena CYMA.

The first Annual General Meeting took place on June 27, 1948. Sir. Earnest de Silva (Patron) Maj. A.F. de Saa Bandaranaike, Siri Perera, Fred de Saram, E.A.P. Fernando, M.Y.M. Mushood were elected as (Vice Patrons) S.L.B.Kapukotuwa President, M.M Thawfeeq. (Secretary) M. R. Batuwantudawe (Treasurer), committee had people like Bernard Mendis, C. Raju, S.T.M.Rauf, J. Wijeuyaertnam, M.S.Jainudeen, M.K.M. Ismail and D.M.Peera.

This committee in seven months organized the first exhibition in Billiards and Snooker in 1949 where Frank Edwards the English Champion and T.A. Selvaraj the Indian Champion were seen in action at the YMBA tables at Borella.

Today the Billiards and Snooker Association of Sri Lanka is 65 years old and look bleak needing a complete rejuvenation with the assistance of the Ministry of Sports and all district organization to rally around and get this sport to what it was in the past.

Although there are no active organizations, many a small time clubs and private enthusiastic have private clubs and concentrate on pool tables and this has become an entertainment hub in Kandy and its suburbs.

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