Malappuram: Veteran footballer E Hamza Koya, who succumbed to COVID-19 on Saturday, was one of the prominent players who made Kerala proud away from home.
The 61-year-old, who hailed from Parappanangadi in Malappuram district, is regarded as one of the best outstation footballers to have ever played for Maharashtra in the Santosh Trophy. A wing-back during his playing days, Hamza Koya was a key player for them in the prestigious tournament between 1981 and 86. He had also captained Maharashtra twice in the Santosh Trophy. He was called up for the national team camp twice, but narrowly missed the opportunity to don the Indian colours on both occasions.
He studied at PSMO College in Tirurangadi and was a regular in their football team. His effectiveness on the wings caught the eye of everyone and soon he made it to the Calicut University team. After settling down in Mumbai, he played for many top clubs in the city including Western Railways (1977-80), Union Bank (1980-81), RCF (1981-82), Tata Sports Club (1982-85), and Orkay Mills where he spent 10 years between 1986 and 96 as a player and coach.
Hamza Koya, who was married to Laila, a former volleyball player, has passed his passion for football on to his son as well. But unlike his father, Lihas is a goalkeeper. Lihas currently plays for Mumbai Customs.
Former international and coach Victor Manjila remembers Hamza Koya as the ‘brand ambassador’ of Kerala football in Maharashtra. “He was always there to help footballers from Kerala. I last met him when he came down to Kozhikode in December 2019 to attend the get-together of CUEFA (Calicut University Ex-Footballers Association). In his death, football has lost a fine personality,” Manjila said.
According to his former Orkay Mills and Maharashtra teammate Dinakaran Premappa, Hamza Koya was a talented footballer who deserved to play for the country.
“The memories of the 1981-82 edition of the Santosh Trophy in Thrissur where we played together for Maharashtra are still vivid in my mind. He had phoned me before boarding the flight from Mumbai. When I contacted him after his COVID-19 test, he said he would call me later. I was shocked to hear the news of his death the next day,” said Dinakaran.