Hassan snooker champion of yesteryear remembered | Sunday Observer

Hassan snooker champion of yesteryear remembered

Every now and then there comes along a man, who through his deep commitment first as player and later as administrator, lights up the arena of sports and, leaves it a better place by his valuable contribution, in the cause and furtherance of sport in this country. One such man as this, with intrinsic worth and endearing wide appeal as undoubtedly the illustrious M.S.A. Hassan, whose death anniversary we commemorate today.

Hassan who stamped his class and left an indelible mark as a rare sportsman, needs to be remembered by a brief narrative here. In the early thirties Hassan spent his formative years as a student as Zahira College – where he learnt that the sports field was complementary to the classroom, with studies and games going hand in hand.

He had a fondneck for cricket and rugger, which was in evidence when he represented the college, in the two respective teams in 1932.

It was in that year that Zahira beat Trinity College for the first time, and recognition too, came the way of Hassan, when he was awarded the prize for being the schools’ best rugby player. This spark for sports kindled in him during his playing days kindled in him during his playing days at school was, on leaving same, further developed to include snooker and soccer. His penchant for snooker was evident when he did exceptionally well to win the first all Ceylon amateur championship in 1935.

Hassan’s interest in cricket and soccer for awhile, ran concurrently with snooker which took hold of him. In the years 1936/37 he played cricket for the Moors Sports Club and soccer for Walker & Sons, where in the mercantile league ‘B’ Division they were champions, not forgetting as well that he also played rugger for the Islam Gymkhana Club.

But by far, for what he would be most remembered for, would be for his outstanding achievements as a player of snooker and billiards, for which he had an inordinate passion. Endowed with an easy going style and steadiness of mein, he brought to bear on the game of snooker a calm disposition, which was mainly responsible in his winning every single event at one time or another or several at the same time- a remarkable achievement that has not been surpassed at the YMCA since 1933.

Playing with effortless ease he was at his peak on the green baize when he was national snooker champion for three consecutive years 1936,1937 and 1938. Perhaps being widely acknowledged as a snooker champion and taking into consideration Hassn’s role of promoting and fostering sport in general he was named the “Best all-round Ceylonese Sportsman” for the year 1937.

What’s so significant about Hassan’s snooker, is that after a long lay off from the game at the YMCA – He made a welcome return to the YMCA green baize tables in 1952 and lost no time in becoming national snooker champion again – under his captaincy the YMCA Billiards team in 1951/52 won the Championship trophy and thereafter Hassan played snooker for the Moors Sports Club. His contemporaries in the billiards’ arena were many one amongst which was the legendary M.J.M.Lafir.

A little known fact is that Hassan was an accredited soccer coach and was responsible for training the soccerites from St. Josephs’ College,amongst whom were star players in Christopher and Peter Ranasinghe,Hubert Bagot,L. Pestonjee, T.Don Allen and yet others. Under his guidance St.Josephs’ were inter collegiate soccer champions in 1946 and 1947and remained unbeaten in 1949.He also assisted the members of the Old Josephian Sports Club at billiards,as their coach and donated as well the M.S.A. Challenge shield for the Old Joes tournament.

This apart Hassan also displayed organizing and administrative ability of a high order. Evidence of this was seen when he as a soccer referee and founder member of the Ceylon Soccer Referee’s Association,was appointed its first secretary in 1939 and in the same year was awarded a certificate as Class I referee – to later serve as its treasure. He was an accomplished soccer referee and officiated at both local as well as international matches.

In the field of billiards, in 1966 he was appointed as a member of the advisory committee for billiards by the then Minister of Sports V.A.Sugathadasa. He was the co-founder of the All Ceylon Amasser Billiards Association and its Vice President and the Chairman of the YMCA billiards Club – position that he held at different times.

With his wide array of achievement Hassan in his day and time was considered a fine sportsman, a stalwart in the billiards and soccer fraternity – who in his own way did much to foster and promote sport in this country.

Though he passed away on October 5 1972 its good to have sportsmen like Hassan in focus in order to serve as an inspiration and encouragement for others to emulate. It’s reassuring to know that his son M. Karmil A. Hassan is following in his father’s footsteps.(RD)

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