Kitchee Custodian Opens His Heart and Talks about

Kitchee goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng is someone who divides public opinion. Fans either love the perfectly proportioned modern day keeper, or simply regard him as someone who is prone to lapses of concentration on the pitch. Either way, no one can deny the long-serving Kitchee custodian has been nothing short of a loyal servant to Kitchee, safeguarding the team’s net for well over a decade. The Kitchee number one arrived Hong Kong in his early twenties more than a decade ago and confessed to staying in town longer than he originally had thought. “At first, I was looking to secure a move from Dalian to Hangzhou but my former club told me that I needed to spend several months in Hong Kong before they would rubber-stamp my desired move. Next thing I know, it has been eleven years in Hong Kong,” Pang said in self-confessed disbelief. “To be honest, I am now spending more time over here than back in China and to me, Hong Kong certainly feels like my proper home now.” An eleven-year stint with Kitchee has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Wang singled out his first league championship medal under Josep Gombau as the highlight of his Kitchee career, while mentioned the Senior Shield Final in 2008 as the ultimate low-light. When pressed upon, Wang could not curtail his heartbreak from that final. “I made a very bad mistake in the game and it virtually cost the team the trophy and the coach subsequently lost his job. I recall how the team’s form just went on a downward spiral after the final, players lost their directions and the team’s results suffered. I felt like my blunder in the final started the downward trend for the club and afterwards, even in the next few years, whenever I heard the Eastern name, memories of that final would still haunt me,” Wang confessed candidly and still attached a lot of blame to himself. What does not break a person can only make one stronger. Wang was determined to make up for his gaffe and came back as a stronger person and a better goalkeeper. “I was very determined to rebound from the mistake and I vowed to myself that whenever we play Eastern again, I would show my absolute best to make up for what I did before,” Peng recalled. “People like Mr. Ken Ng from the Kitchee management team and even Fan Chun-yip, goalkeeper coach of the Hong Kong representative team, offered me inspiring encouragements and told me to keep my head up. Their support meant a lot to me especially during my low time and I never forgot them.” Throughout the years, it is not uncommon for fans to question Wang’s position as Kitchee’s first-choice goalkeeper and some would even claim he received preferential treatment from club owner Ken Ng. Wang shrugs off the accusation and opens his heart on the topic. “I am well aware that people has said I am the god son of Mr. Ng and I only have my place in the Kitchee team because of him. I will be the first one to say that Mr. Ng has been a very good boss to myself all these years and he stood by me through thick and thin. Remember the Senior Shield Final in 2008 that we just spoke about? I was crying on the pitch after the full-time whistle and the boss just wrapped his hands around me and told me not to worry, as we will try again together. It was a very short and simple message but meant the whole world to me,” Wang said in appreciation. Generally a person who likes to smile, Wang candidly admits that public criticisms used to get him annoyed, leading to some memorable episodes on the pitch. “I think it was a game between Kitchee and South China from some years ago. I was taking several goal-kicks and there were constantly shouts from the stands, swearing at me and my family. I ignored them at first but as the verbal abuse got more and more persistent, I could not resist and took a peak at the haggling fans. Finally, I spotted the guy who was verbally abusing me and after the half-time whistle, I leapt over the advertising boards and went up to the stand, grabbed the guy by the shirt and threatened to punch him. The crowd nearby went bananas and shouted “Punch him! Punch him!” but at the end, my teammates pulled me away and escorted me to the dressing room,” Wang said with in a smile, a sign that the imposing keeper has now firmly put the incident behind him. Throughout the decade, Wang has very much evolved from a fun-loving young bachelor to a responsible husband and a caring father. However, one thing has not changed in the custodian’s mind, and that is to bring further success to Kitchee. “This club means a lot to me and it is truly a family-oriented club. I have seen a lot of players come and go throughout my time here but none of them seem to have anything negative to say about the club, even after their departure,” Wang said. “We are Kitchee and this club demands constant success. I definitely hope I can play my part in securing more trophies for the club down the future.”