P.M. Hameed, who has organised the C.H. Mohammed Koya Memorial Football Tournament for 30 years, says football tournaments never run on losses

P.M. Hameed is not bound by theories and arguments. For him, Kerala football has never been an enigma. It is still the most popular spectator sport. Yes, he understands that it has fallen into a state of stagnation which he measures by the fewer number of tournaments across the State. But Hameed is not willing to buy the argument that football tournaments are loss-making events and interest in the game has dwindled.

Hameed should know, for he has been single-handedly organising the C.H. Mohammed Koya Memorial Football Tournament for the past 30 years. Hameed’s work begins two months before the tournament. This one-man army collects funds, invites teams and referees and arrangeschairs at the venue.

Hameed recounts how the tournament got its name. “Stanley Mani, a friend and footballer, died in a boat accident near Vallarpadom. I had already decided to organise a tournament in Fort Kochi and wanted to name it after Stanley. But his family did not want this, not until a couple of years after the tragedy. And I could not wait as I had already begun preparations for the tournament. That was when C.H., the former Chief Minister of Kerala and an avid football fan, passed away. So, I named the tournament after him.”

For the first four years it was a Sevens tournament and was held at the Santa Cruz ground, Fort Kochi. “Some of the top teams and players such as I.M. Vijayan, Thobias, M.M. Jacob and many others have played in the tournament during its early days. The event was a breeding ground for young footballers.”

After the first four years the tournament was registered with the Kerala Football Association and for long, the Parade Ground, Fort Kochi, was the ‘permanent’ venue. “Football is more than a passion for the people in Fort Kochi, Mattancherry and the islands around. All I needed for a good crowd at the matches is some publicity. I used to hire an autorickshaw and have someone make announcements. Parade Ground used to be packed.”

Bad grounds

Hameed was forced to move out of Parade Ground for many reasons. “The condition of the ground became bad with hardly any maintenance. When one of the rain trees fell, stretching out into the ground, I ran from pillar to post to get this removed but failed, forcing me to move the tournament that year to the Maharaja’s College ground. Now, for the past two years the venue has been the beautiful Sacred Heart College ground.”

This year, the 30th edition of the tournament, had 12 teams from the district. Hameed puts the costs for this year at approximately Rs. 80,000. “This includes match fee for teams on all playing days, food, officials’ fees and miscellaneous expenses. Every year the expenses keep mounting. Crowd funding alone may not be enough to keep the tournament going. But the tournament has never been in the red. No football tournament runs into a loss here. I know of organisers who simply state losses on paper.” The money Hameed saves from each edition of the tournament goes into running of his own club, Blaze Cochin.

Hameed’s budget forces him to restrict his tournament to 12 teams. “There are 72 registered clubs in the district. But I can accommodate only 12. The only other tournament here is the one organised by Don Bosco and there are few tournaments in the State. This means so many young footballers are deprived of a chance to play. And hence, a fall in standards,” says Hameed, who now stays at Alangad, near Aluva.

Joining Hameed in his endeavour are his friends, Joseph, Ummer and Johnson. “You don’t need a committee to organise a tournament. My dream is an all-India tournament which will cost Rs. 10-15 lakh with floodlights and all. If I manage this, say if I win a lottery, I need just these three friends to organise it,” he says.

Nothing seems to dampen Hameed’s enthusiasm. He goes about his mission with a cheery smile, unshakeable confidence. “My wife who has stood with me through all my eccentricities told me the other day that my children have now grown up; I have become old and it was time I stop getting involved in this tournament. I told her I’ll do it till I die,” Hameed says even as he runs into the ground picking up the bits of paper, clearing it before the referee blows the whistle.

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