‘He was my hero’ – those were the words of the brother of Ronald Cocozza, a well-known sportsman in Worthing who has died aged 92.
Ronald, known as Ron, was best known for being captain of local football team Wigmore Athletic and playing for Tarring Priory Bowls Club before his death on January 3.
His brother Domenic, 80, paid tribute to him. He said: “I adored him. He was my role model.”
Ron’s passion for amateur football began when he played for the Broadwater Minors. He was called up for National Service in the final months of the Second World War, and was sent to the Middle East for three years.
Upon his return, Ron and his friends formed Wigmore Athletic – named after The Wigmore Arms pub in Leigh Road, Worthing, the club’s base, which is now a block of flats.
Under Ron’s leadership, the club progressed from local district football up to the premier division of the County League, and Ron was selected to play for the junior and senior teams at a county level.
Domenic, known as Dom, was inspired by his older brother’s example to take up football, himself playing for Wigmore Athletic.
Despite being a prolific goalscorer, what he admired most about Ron on the pitch was his sportsmanship.
He recalled a time where his brother kicked the ball into a goalkeeper’s face during a crucial moment in the match.
But instead of seizing the opportunity to score and win the game, he made sure the goalkeeper was okay. They eventually lost.
“I had known him to deliberately miss a penalty because he thought it was unjustly rewarded,” Dom added.
While he had professional trials for Brighton & Hove Albion, he was a plasterer by trade and retired from football aged about 35.
He then took up bowls at the Tarring club, and played well into his 80s.
Ron never married and lived at his parental home in Downlands Avenue, Worthing, until a few months before he died. He is survived by Dom, his sister Peggy, 89, brother John, 79, and his nephews and nieces.
The funeral will take place at 12.20pm on Monday at Worthing Crematorium.
Family flowers only but donations can be made to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Ron’s memory.