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From La Liga to Hong Kong – Kitchee’s Jose Molina

In an another exclusive interview, Jose Molina discusses his time at Kitchee, his past heroics in La Liga and driving Kitchee into the Asian Champions League.

Hong Kong is an unique city where you can meet many special individuals from all walks of life whom have an incredible story to tell but it is not often you meet a La Liga and Copa Del Rey winning legend whom is still held in high esteem by his former clubs. The person in question is Jose Molina, the Spanish goalkeeping legend who kept net for club giants Atlético Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna as well as the Spanish national team. Molina’s incredible career saw him win La Liga and two Copa Del Reys as well as go to World Cups and European Championships; not too many people can claim to have accomplished the same achievements!

Jose Molina of Kitchee

Jose Molina of Kitchee

Sometimes memories are guarded close to the heart and kept personal for they are so enduring and distinct that surely only the person whom accomplished such great feats can truly understand these feelings and emotions; yet sometimes you meet a remarkable, open and down to earth person who is willing to discuss past glories in all their raw emotion. The sharing of reminiscences is often a personal thing to be interpreted by all those who are listening in their own way but often the dissemination of past experiences can become a form of oral history; wonderful moments may have past but yet they still live on in the subconscious and deserve a wider audience.

Molina, in the course of this early evening chat, delved into his treasure trove of memories; playing against Arsenal in the champions league at Highbury which he described as ‘incredible’, being 2-1 up and facing down a thunderous wall of noise  from 16,000 home fans which reverberated down from Aston Villa’s famed Holte End in a second leg European tie and facing off against great strikers such as Raul, Ronaldo (retired one), Ronaldinho and many more. Molina has faced the best and come out trumps in some amazing matches including defeating AC Milan 4-0 in the champions league.

Ever the wise and accommodating man, I asked Molina how he could keep his mindset and concentration in-front of crowds of 80,000 and 100,000 and he simply replied “focus on the ball”, precise and to the point and yet infinitely true. Molina also reflected on a bygone era when well known professional footballers could walk the streets of the major cities without much hassle when compared to their modern day counter-parts.

Molina has settled well into life in Hong Kong and realizes that the Asia Pacific is an area of growth and opportunity; he still maintains ties with his previous clubs but concedes that it is quite hard to keep up an on-going correspondence due to the actual distances that exist; he is delighted to be in Hong Kong and also notes that his immediate family also love the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.

Jose Molina on the far left  as Kitchee prepare to face PSG Paris

Jose Molina on the far left as Kitchee prepare to face PSG Paris – Photo by Eric Li

Molina has high ambitions for Kitchee and is willing and hoping that they can take the giant leap necessary to qualify for the Asian Champions League group stages. He is a man  content in his achievements yet is hungry and driven for more. Jose Molina, a man who has seen much, experienced much and willing to share for all those who are willing to listen.

What type of style of football do Kitchen play? Have you tried to implement a Spanish style of football with Kitchee? 

Kitchee are working with what you can say is a Spanish style for about five years now; Josep Gombau, he did a great job and they (Kitchee) are working with this style from this time onwards and now I will try and continue with this style. I think when you are winning, in the last years, you will continue winning because every other team will want to beat you and it is hard to continue this form and style so you need to evolve and you need to evolve in your team’s style as other teams will study your style and how they can win over you. You need to change something through evolution but not a great change but some changes you need to do. This is what I plan to do as I like the Kitchee style and this is one of the reasons I am here but I will try and improve a little bit or more if I can. If Kitchee can continue winning in the Hong Kong league and then we can overall improve in the Asian competitions (as well). This is one of the aims of the club.

Kitchee have great team spirit

Kitchee have great team spirit

What do you hope to achieve this season with Kitchee? 

I think we must have one important target which is to win the next match that we are going to play; this is the most important one which is the next win. We must work in this way, we are working for one week in training, we are always working for one week to win the match on the weekend. The next match that we are going to play is our target and from this point of view, our target is to win each match that we are going to play. This is the target. It is very difficult to win every match you are playing, we must try. We must fight for this with an aim to win the league and be champions because Kitchee were the league winners last season. We want to win the league again and to be in the Asian competitions; Champions league and AFC cup and improve on this year where we made it to the semi final of the AFC Cup and in the long-term we will try and be in the Asian Champions League, it will be very difficult but we will try and if we are in the AFC Cup then we will try and get to the final.

Before you came to Asia, what did you know about Hong Kong and Chinese football? 

In Spain, there is not too much news on Asian football maybe (some) news about players and coaches who are working and playing here (in Asia) you can see on the news and watch on the television. (There are) not many matches you can see on the Chinese league, Japanese league (as) it is not usual for Spanish television to show matches. I know about Kitchee because I read some news and watch some matches (involving) Kitchee; Kitchee were in Spain I think, four years ago, I was watching one Kitchee game against Villareal; I knew about Josep Gombaum,  Danny Compella (sp), they were working here (in Hong Kong) and doing a great job, they knew a lot about Hong Kong football. In China, there are many Spanish players playing in China and I know some information about these teams but not as much about the league.

What was the highlight of your long and distinguished playing career? 

When you are playing, the most important thing are the titles you can win and for me; the most important moments in my career were when I won these titles like when I won the Spanish league with Atletico Madrid and when I won the Copa De Rey with Deportivo La Coruna and with Atletico Madrid. These were the best moments because you are working everyday and you are fighting everyday (and) you are suffering sometimes trying to achieve this, to win a cup and to celebrate these moments. These are the great moments every player has in his career.

Kitchee are edging to the top

Kitchee are edging to the top

How does Kitchee connect to their fans? 

This is important as I think the relationship between fans and clubs is key. The relationship between fans and club is very important because we are working for one of the reasons we always do, we want the fans to come to the stadium, enjoy the work and performance so they can be proud of this team and this is very important. Kitchee have a style, a way  to do things and we have good supporters who enjoy our games and I think this is a relationship where we must give something to the fans and the fans have to proud of this team and they give us something back. We feel it is important to feel the support of the fans as they are helping us to win the matches.

Do you like living in Hong Kong? 

I am really happy here and so are my family. Hong Kong is big and important city where you can find everything you need. Everyone is nice and there is a nice community here. Life in Hong Kong is nice and comfortable and people in the club have have made me feel welcome everyday and are really helping me and my family everyday. Only one thing is very difficult, it is the heat especially in the summer, the rest is great and I am very happy to be here!

You were a hero at Deportivo La Coruna and Atletico Madrid. Do you still have strong ties with these two teams?

I was at Deportivo La Coruna for six years and five at Atletico Madrid and I enjoyed playing for these two teams and I still have friends working in these clubs and of course I have contact with them but when you are so far away, it is difficult to have strong contact with people but of course I have friends there; I have friends in both Atletico Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna and we have had these friends for a long time and this important in football as you can know a lot of people and you can also make good friends with them.

In the new Premier league, Kitchee have some tough opponents. What do you think of your main opponents and how do you think you will do against them?

I think there are three strong teams (in the HK Premier League); they have good players and they all are playing really well, Sun Pegasus have started the league very very strongly, they won five from five in the beginning; they have played really well and are difficult to beat. I think South China and Eastern are the strongest teams, they have great players. I was not here last season but some assistants are telling me that they are signing a lot of new players, good players, they invest alot of money in the team / club. Well, money is always important when signing new players. South China is one of the teams here in Hong Kong with great players, we have three important rivals in these three teams and it is never easy  to win. We have (recently) beaten Yuen Long and Rangers, these were not easy matches, we needed to fight a lot and each match is very difficult. Our target is to win the next match, nothing more. It is more important to win the next game, we have a Tai Po match on Saturday (at the time of the interview), we must win this. We don’t want to be out of this competition, we must focus on this match and try and this match with our best performances.

Thank you! 

All pictures courtesy of Chris KL Lau and Eric Li 

Follow Chris KL Lau on Twitter

Christopher KL Lau was born in England and grew up in both England and Hong Kong, and has a background in media, education and non-profits. He also is a freelance writer / photographer and has written for a number of magazines, websites and newspapers around the world on many subjects ranging from the arts to travel. Chris is passionate about sports and its place in society and is keen to promote both Hong Kong and Chinese football to a wider audience.

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