Hong Kong correspondent Christopher KL Lau brings his regular round-up of all the very latest news, developments and other footballing points of interest from the SAR.…
He came, he saw and he conquered! Jose Molina, the now former manager of Kitchee had an incredible season in Hong Kong as he swept up a treble of trophies including the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup. His legacy is one of attractive football and a great team spirit and his successor, Abraham Garcia, has quite the footsteps to follow. Molina has now returned to his native Spain but kindly took time out to have an in-depth chat about his short but memorable time in Hong Kong.
What is the secret behind your success?
I think there was no special secret. The first secret was the work; the work of everybody from all the people at the club including the players, everyone in the coaching staff who were all working really hard from the first day of the season. I think the players understand me and I understand the players and what they need, we had a good mix and I understand the coaching side. The coach must help the players so they can express themselves everyday. This is what I tried from the first day and they did a really good job as they must win the matches. This was the aim of the coaching staff and what we worked toward.
Did you expect to win three trophies in Hong Kong?
When I started to work [at Kitchee], I expected to win every match that I would play. I know it was really difficult but I tried. I expected to win the AFC Cup, I expected to win the Senior Shield, I expected to win everything! We only won three titles but I think it was a good result. I think in football, you must have an important aim as you cannot think “I will win one title”. No, you must think big and try to win everything. Then finally, you work hard and then you will get into that position. You have to do your best and work with the people around you and then they will work with you to achieve the same goal.
You have played teams like South China and Eastern many times, was this useful for you?
Well, with past matches, I got to know more about the Hong Kong Premier League and the teams in Hong Kong and it was easier to plan the matches. I always had the support of Chino, Ricky, Alex and Mr. Ken and they know Hong Kong football and the teams really well. They all helped a lot for every match. We had many matches against those clubs (Eastern, South China, etc) and I feel only two matches (were tight), one match against South China and one match against Eastern, the first game against South China was in the Community Cup and we played really well. I feel we were the better team than them in terms of football but we were unlucky in terms of the first goal, we played really well! All the games against South China, Sun Pegasus, Eastern, we played really well in almost all of them!
Did Kitchee play the way you wanted them too?
Yes, yes, I came here because the football I had in my mind is similar to what Kitchee had because here at Kitchee, they have a clear goal of how they want to play. If the next coach who comes here cannot play in the same way then he cannot come here to be the coach.
You cannot always work in the same way so in order to be successful, you need to keep evolving to keep winning. I said this on my first day. We were always working hard and evolving to be more competitive and I think we achieved this.
Do you think the Hong Kong league is too small? Would you have liked to played against teams from the Chinese Super League?
To play in a league with them (Chinese Super League Teams)? I think this would be impossible. I think the level of Hong Kong football in this moment, we cannot compete with Chinese Super League teams. They are very strong as they have more money so they have more resources to do things and invest in the teams and then at this moment as the level is totally different. If Kitchee and South China can play in the Chinese Super League, maybe they can have more money as they would have different sponsors and then maybe they can compete.
When asked about youth football in Hong Kong…
…..They (youths) go to university because if they go to university, they can eventually gain a lot of money. Maybe if they are really good (as footballers) then they can gain HKD30,000 salary (Per month). This is a good salary but it is not a top salary so parents prefer their kids to go to school or University to playing football and then they lose the opportunity to be better players as they really need to train everyday.
So in Spain is it a different mentality?
In Europe, it is different because if you are a professional player then you will gain a lot of money. Even families prefer their sons to play football; I want my kids to study and go to university and have a good job but if they have the skills to be a top player then they will live really well and that is ok!
It is different in Hong Kong! I had many young players who could not come to train. They had to go to university and school, they could not come to train. If you train everyday for two hour, it is not the same if you train two hours in a week. The progress is not the same. The progress in Hong Kong is slow, really slow and they ‘arrive’ at 22, 23 and they are ‘young players’; in Europe at 22 or 23 or in Brazil or Argentina, at 22, 23, you must be established! At 18 and 19, many are in the first division / top tier already. Here in Hong Kong, it is impossible and so the progress of a football player is much more difficult.
I think if Hong Kong wants to grow (in football), they must do something about this! Ok, the young players must go to school but they also have to train so they (clubs, players) must talk to the universities to permit the players to attend training; we had one player who studies at University but sometimes he cannot come to Kitchee as he needs to study or do exams. In Europe, this does not happen as the teachers would permit the player to come in at a different time to do the exams as there is a good relationship between sports and studies while in Hong Kong, there is always a clash. When you talk to (Hong Kong) fathers, they always prefer their sons go to university because they can gain a better salary as it always comes down to the money. Hong Kong has to find the right balance between study and sports.
Are you disappointed to leave Kitchee when you are in such a strong position?
No, because it was my decision. I am not disappointed in my decision. When I came to Kitchee, they were in the quarterfinals of the AFC Cup and when I leave, Kitchee have qualified for the quarter finals of the AFC Cup again. I hope they can make the final and I can see the final as a fan!
Thank you and all the best!
All pictures courtesy of Chris KL Lau
Christopher KL Lau is a freelance writer and photographer. Follow him on Twitter.