The lone goalscorer in the side’s 1-0 victory over New Caledonia in the OFC U-20 Championship on Friday, Koka says it was all about taking a chance.
“The striker gave me that ball and I had a good chance to finish strongly. We just have to make the most of opportunities like that,” he says.
And it rings true of his journey to international football.
Just five years ago Koka was just another kid kicking about and dreaming of the footballing life. He made his debut on the pitch at an U-12 Inter-Schools competition and the rest, as they say, is history.
Vanuatu Football Federation Academy coach Etienne Mermer was scouting around the outer Vanuatu islands for players to bring into the Port Vila-based Teouma Academy.
Koka caught his attention.
“I started to play futsal and football when I was 12, Etienne came to Santo and took me to the Academy,” Koka explains.
“I trained there and basically learned everything I know about football from Etienne.”
With a strong focus on education as well as football, Koka has thrived in the Academy set-up and was one of the key members of Mermer’s national U-17 team which finished third at the OFC U-17 Championship in 2013.
For Koka it was his first foray into international football, and one that he was more than happy to make at home.
“I was so proud to play in Santo last year because my family could come and see me play,” he says.
“My parents were surprised at how good I was because they hadn’t really seen me play since I’d left for Port Vila. I was so glad I could play in that Vanuatu squad.”
He’s now stepped up to U-20 level and would love to see his side qualify for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup, not for him – but for his country.
“If we win, Vanuatu will be so happy. The coaches will be so happy and everyone will be proud of our team,” the 17-year-old says.
Yes, at just 17 Koka is one of the youngest members in this squad but as he showed on Friday, shouldn’t be underestimated because of his age.
“He’s one of the youngest players we’ve got, coming from the island of Santo – but he’s quite a good player,” plays down Vanuatu U-20 assistant coach Anthony Pisano.
“He’s very energetic, I mean, he’ll run all day. He’s quite technical as well and that was quite a good goal he scored on Friday so we’re really happy with how he’s tracking.”
A Santo boy through and through, Koka says if he could carve out a career in football at home on Santo he would.
But for now he’s happy being able to represent his province and hopes he’s making the locals proud like fellow Santo-player Kensi Tangis. Tangis has been grabbing headlines recently thanks to his impressive form with Amicale in the OFC Champions League – a campaign young Koka has followed closely.
“I watch a lot of football at home, especially since I moved to Port Vila. My favourite club is Amicale and I love to watch Fenedy Masauvakalo,” he says.
Could he eventually join his hero at Amicale, or even in the Vanuatu senior national squad, who knows? But one thing is for certain, if that opportunity arises Koka will be taking it with both hands.