A famous quote goes like this: “For some people football is a matter of life and death. But, for some it is much more serious than that. “Perhaps no one better qualifies for that definition than the 60-year-old P M Hameed from Fort Kochi.
Hameed has been organising the C H Mohammed Koya Memorial Football Tournament for the last three decades all on his own. A footballer during his early days, it was Hameed’s wish to see top teams entertaining the Fort Kochi crowd that resulted in the tournament 30 years ago at the Parade Ground here.
“People were crazy those days. Though the numbers have decreased, we still have good crowds watching the tournament,” says Hameed, who invites teams, sets dates, procures funds and readies venue for the second longest-running football tournament in Kochi.
Held as a sevens tournament in the first four years, teams including Indian Navy, Central Excise and Cochin Port Trust and the likes of M M Jacob, T A Jaffar and I M Vijayan have all wooed the crowds here over the years.
It takes around `1 lakh to conduct a tournament of such magnitude and Hameed still manages to collect it from several well wishers scattered over the city. “I travel around on my bicycle and visit friends and supporters who are all willing to contribute some amount for the cause,” he says.
Setting aside all the passion, it is also interesting to note the professionalism with which Hameed carries out all the aspects relating to the tournament, something that is seen lacking from our football authorities.
However limited the budget is, Hameed pays a match fee and food to all the
participating teams. He doesn’t spent a single penny on hoardings and the publicity is all word-of-mouth and still has ended up making profit on all the 29 editions of the tournament.
Hameed is also adamant about the facilities the players get on and off the pitch. His years of efforts to redevelop the Parade Ground bore fruit when Chief Minister Oommen Chandy laid foundation for renovating the ground and laying a synthetic track there.
But the renovation work is yet to begin leaving the pitch in dire straits. “I would love to hold the matches here, but we might be forced to shift the venue elsewhere. The players come first and we cannot risk injuries,” Hameed says.
Twelve teams from the city will participate in the 30th edition of the tournament beginning on February 19. The semi finals are slated for February 28 and March 1 and the final for March 3.