In an exclusive interview, Jaimes McKee discusses his family’s sporting / footballing heritage, his ambitions for Sun Pegasus and the new Hong Kong Premier League.
You would normally not expect to find a well-known professional footballer / international willing to meet in the not so glamourous surroundings of McPherson Public playground (Mong Kok) and then in an nearby Starbucks to have a chat but then Jaimes McKee of Sun Pegasus and Hong Kong is far from your average footballer.
Friendly and affable, McKee is definitely one of the most down-to-earth professional footballers a person is likely ever to meet. The sense of goodwill normally ends on the pitch as McKee has built up a reputation as one of Hong Kong’s most technically skilled and speedy strikers / wingers often laying waste to defenders and plundering goals. South China seem to be his favorite opponents as McKee has since developed a knack of notching up his tally whilst playing against the “Caroliners” down the years.
From his roots in Birmingham, McKee, moved to Dubai at a young age and subsequently onto Hong Kong and made the bustling metropolis his home which he now represents with pride. McKee has established himself as a mainstay of Hong Kong professional football for several years now and is a firm fan favorite for the intensity of his play and the 100% determination he puts into games and for some of his breathtaking and phenomenal goals. In-fact, McKee is famed for once scoring five goals…yes five goals …in one game against Rangers on the last day of the 2012-2013 season which saw him take home the top league scorer prize.
McKee began his journey to becoming a professional player from the bottom up and was outstanding for HKFC for several seasons and was seemingly was scoring goals for fun. Talent often rises to the top, thus after spells with Kitchee and Hong Kong FC (again), he is now part of the vivacious and driven Sun Pegasus team which has stormed to the summit of the Hong Kong Premier league. His diligence and determination to overcome a recent injury has been rewarded with further international recognition and subsequently his first international goal (November 13th) against North Korea.
Amiable and receptive off the pitch whilst a deadly skilled speedster on the pitch, there is no doubt that Jaimes McKee will continue to drive both the national team and Sun Pegasus to even greater heights.
You are now an established member of the Hong Kong national team. When you first arrived in Hong Kong from Dubai, did you ever envision yourself playing professional soccer and for the Hong Kong team?
No, I didn’t. At that time, I was playing more golf and tennis, and I hadn’t really played any football. Hong Kong is the place where I developed my football skills, it started with me playing in the KGV school team and went on from there.
How do you think Sun Pegasus will fare in the new Hong Kong Premier League?
Very well. Since TSW pegasus disbanded and we had to rebuild as Sun Pegasus, we’ve continually improved and got stronger. Last year, we made everyone aware that we are a force to be reckoned with, with strong performances in the league and cups. This year we’ll have the strongest squad yet and we’ll definitely be title challengers.
Hong Kong got off to a flying start in the Asian Cup qualifiers but then faded away. Why do you think this happened?
We had a tough group so it was always going to be difficult. We probably started better than expected with the draw in Uzbekistan. However, things started to go wrong when we had back to back losses against a very good UAE team. The 0-4 defeat at home definitely knocked the wind from our sails. We then had to play an away match against them a month later. It was always going to be tough and we never recovered from it.
Argentina will come to Hong Kong (October 14th – At the Time of Writing), you must be incredibly excited to have the chance to play against players like Messi and Di Maria?
It’s an amazing opportunity for the players and the fans. The HKFA are working hard to improve the standard of Hong Kong football. Getting teams like Argentina to come here is a big step in the right direction. It’s great for Hong Kong kids to see the prospects of playing huge teams like Argentina. For me, at the moment, the main thing on my mind is to recover from my long term hamstring problem. If I can be ready and fit for the match then it would be brilliant, if not, then I know I tried my best to be ready, and it just wasn’t meant to be. (Jaimes was unable to play due to injury)
Video: McKee scores against North Korea… (1.35 mins onwards)
Was it an easy decision for you to give up your British passport to take up a Hong Kong passport in order to represent the Hong Kong national team?
Giving up my passport is something I’d thought about early on in my football career, when playing for Kitchee. However, FIFA regulations specified that you had to live in a country for seven years after the age of eighteen before you’d be eligible to represent your country. Having lived in Hong Kong most of my life and having my family here I consider it my home, so giving up my British passport for a Hong Kong one never seemed like such a big deal. When Pegasus suggested I change my passport so I’d be eligible to play in the AFC cup I went for it. I saw it as an opportunity for my football career to grow and improve.
Football seems to be a family tradition as your grandfather was Frank Mckee Birmingham City. How supportive were your family in your journey to become professional? Who has been your strongest influence?
My family have always been very supportive on my journey to become a professional footballer. After finishing secondary school, they encouraged me to take a gap year to focus solely on football. We are a very sporty family so from a young age we played tennis and golf together. My dad has been my strongest influence. He attends nearly every game and is now well known amongst the Mong Kok faithful fans. He used to play football to a good standard and, therefore, is able to give me good feedback on my performances. We’ll often have long discussions after a match.
In your opinion, how can the overall structure of Hong Kong football improve?
I think sponsorship and media attention will help improve Hong Kong football. It would be great if every team had their own training facilities. The HKFA have the right idea, they have gained sponsorship from BOC Group Life Assurance Company Limited for the premier league which will ensure more prize money for each team participating in the league. They have also introduced ‘player integrity’. They are making sure each team has a youth team infrastructure. They are also trying to provide career opportunities for players after they’ve finished playing, as a players football playing career can be quite short. The HKFA is working in unison with educational facilities to provide further education for Hong Kong players. It is important that football is seen as a respectable career and kids are supported by their families in their career choice.
Great things are happening up north in the Chinese Super League. Would you ever like to make the transition north? Why is the game suddenly booming in China?
My goal at the moment is to win a trophy playing in Hong Kong, however, if the opportunity to play in China arises again then it is something I’d strongly have to consider. It would be a great challenge to play somewhere other than Hong Kong and a good life experience. I can only become a better player for doing so. From what I know about Chinese football, it seems that the fans love their football. However, that interest is mainly directed towards the European leagues. Things seem to be changing though. A large amount of money is now being invested into the super league which has meant a better quality of players and coaches. A Chinese team winning the AFC Champions league doesn’t hurt interests as well.
Who is better at FIFA (the computer game)? You or Michael Campion (also Sun Pegasus).
It’s a tough one. I think I’m going to have to challenge Michael, then I’ll let you know, but I’m feeling confident!
All pictures courtesy of Chris KL Lau. Follow him on Twitter.
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