Kitchee Full-back Returns for Second Tour of Duty

While people might say that you should never go back to certain places again, that does not seem to faze Kitchee full-back Tong Kin-man one bit at all. Despite a less-than-stellar first tour of duty with Kitchee six years ago, the attacking-minded defender returned to Kitchee this season as a steady, seasoned veteran. Armed with a more mature mindset, the well-spoken Tong travelled down Memory Lane and spoke about his two spells with Kitchee. Having played for clubs such as Fukien and Happy Valley earlier in his career, journeyman Tong first joined Kitchee in the 2009-2010 season, coinciding with former Kitchee head coach Josep Gombau’s arrival. “It was certainly an eye-opener when I first joined the club. I remember it was former Kitchee head coach Josep Gombau’s first year with the side and he really emphasized on playing an attacking-minded 4-3-3 formation, demanding us to play short passes, retaining possession all the time and forbidding us to even make clearances. It was a playing style that was never seen in Hong Kong football and it really revolutionized the local game,” Tong recalled. Sadly, Tong’s first spell with the club only lasted for half a season, as a mixture of injuries and various reasons meant the full-back did not see much game-action in Kitchee colours, leading to frustrations and an eventual loan move to Tai Chung. “I was impatient back then and probably a bit short-sighted. I wanted to play all the time but did not have the necessary right mindset to do so. Now that I look back, I realize I lacked the determination to nail down a spot in the starting line-up. I do believe my skill set was good enough back then but somehow, it was the lack of heart that prevented me from playing more,” the thirty-one year-old confessed with a touch of regret. Tong eventually settled down with Pegasus for several seasons and credited the side for helping him to reach another level. However, Tong found himself on the move again after the 2014-2015 season, as Pegasus withdrew from top flight football. That was the time when Kitchee stepped in and gave its former player a second opportunity to join the club. “As an established club, Kitchee has all the resources and facilities that a professional football player needs to keep improving, which makes rejoining the club a very simple decision” the articulate defender revealed. “Let us be honest, getting re-acclimatized with Kitchee has not been an easy task and it took me one or two months to come to terms that I am no longer a Pegasus member. But all the Kitchee players are of such a high quality that they push me to improve every single day. I am really thriving under this competitive environment and enjoying the various challenges that come along with it. Of course, helping the club to win trophies has to be the main priority for me at this moment.” On another note, Tong also confesses that a more mature outlook has helped him to improve his work-ethic immensely, which in return leads to a better performance on the pitch. “I am not longer a kid anymore and as a father, I need to shoulder more responsibilities. You will not believe how responsibilities can quickly make a person grow up, as I am now working harder in practice, watching my rest carefully and taking care of my diet,” Tong explained. “I have played in all positions on the backline this season and I just want to make the most of my opportunities when they appear. I have put in a lot of hard work and sweat in preseason and I do not want to see them go to waste. I believe if you work hard every day, your opportunities will eventually come and when they finally arrive, you will be ready to grab them with both hands.” The likeable Tong also talks about his desire to get back into the Hong Kong team and making his family proud. “My wife has always been very supportive of my career and when she was carrying our baby, she would often encourage me to focus on my training or matches and just get on with my job. We wanted our son to be proud of a football-playing father and that is why I am also working very hard to get back into the Hong Kong team,” Tong shared. “I am constantly working hard and getting myself ready for one day earning the call-up again. To be honest, even if the call never comes again, at least I can look into the mirror and say I have given my all and have no regret whatsoever.”