Unfazed and Determined, Kitchee’s Midfield Maestro

No one can deny it has been a disappointing season for those who support Kitchee. However, it is also clear that no one will feel the same level of sense of loss than Kitchee’s very own players. As one of the icons of the Blues, midfielder Lam Ka-wai opened up and looked back on Kitchee’s many ups and downs throughout the turbulent season… … Having played for Kitchee for nine seasons, Lam frankly stated that disappointment was the only way to describe the current campaign. “None of our results, playing style and performances were up to par,” Lam did not sugar-coat his views. “In the football world, it is nothing special for a side to go through a rough patch. However, suffering a crushing defeat (AFC Cup 2015 quarter-final 1st leg away in Kuwait) against Kuwait SC really set us back for the season. We then went through a non-stop change of players and that seemed to have affected our stability. We aimed to retain the premier league trophy but at mid-point, we knew had made things really difficult for ourselves. At the end of the day, we only have ourselves to blame, as we dropped far too many points against the mid-to-low sides in the premier league.” Besides a series of subpar performances on the pitch, Lam also shed light on a period of unrest within the Kitchee camp during midseason. “From what I have seen personally, players have always given their all. However, maybe it was due to the slow start that we had to start the season, players and the head coach (former Kitchee head coach Abraham Garcia) seemed to have got into a bit of mistrust and that ultimately affected our performance on the pitch,” Lam recalled. “I know for a fact that Kitchee has been trying hard to recruit the appropriate head coach to lead the side but it is never going to be an easy task. The incoming head coach needs to know what makes Kitchee ticks, what kind of players the club possesses and what type of players the club needs. We have been going through a string of head coaches and that is bound to affect our consistency on the pitch. Having said that, it is not that easy to find the right person to lead the side.” Kitchee tried hard to stay focused and to compete for premier league glory in a largely up and down campaign. At the end, the Blues fell short to eventual premier league winner Eastern and had to settle for a runner-up position. Dethrone by Eastern has led to Lam offering the below assessment on Kitchee’s fierce rival. “Of course, Eastern is a really quality and powerful side and that is something that cannot be denied. However, on the several occasions that we played them this season, we never seemed to be second-best,” Lam maintained. “The major difference between the two sides in the tile chase is down to consistency. I will never say Eastern is not a worthy premier league champion but our lack of consistency definitely contributed to Eastern’s success.” Despite the club’s performance being pale in comparison with the past, Kitchee nevertheless managed to lay claim to the League Cup trophy, a feat that Lam insists means far more than just picking up a silverware. “Let us be honest, the importance of the League Cup might not be as significant as the other trophies. But for a club of Kitchee’s stature, it is ultra important for us to win at least a trophy every season,” Lam said. “In addition, this is the first trophy for the team since Coach Chu (Alex Chu, Kitchee’s football director) and “Chino” (Roberto Losada, Kitchee’s assistant coach) took over the coaching reins midseason. It is certainly a recognition to the work that they have done.” As one of the elder statesmen of Kitchee, Lam also has to face an ever increasing battle for playing time this season. Lam seemed to have taken things in stride and did not faze at all when pressed for comments. “I have been with the club for so many years now, my heart is all for Kitchee to sign better players to bolster the squad. I give Jared (Lum) all the credit in the world for his talents and contributions to the side. He covers a lot of ground on the pitch and is simply a tireless worker. I know his addition midseason might potentially cut into my playing time but I choose to see this as a healthy rivalry and will stay positive in the competition for places,” Lam offered. “Some people might say that my own form has dipped this season but I have to politely disagree on that. I have worked very hard to sustain my form this season and maybe it was due to tactical needs or the change in the team’s playing style that have caused people to come to that opinion.” Although with the season playoffs and the AFC Cup still up for grabs, Lam was blunt and maintained hardly anything could change the fact that it has been a disappointing season for Kitchee. “With all our previous achievements and how we have performed this season, you will be hard-pressed to find anything that can turn this season around and make it a success,” Lam deadpanned. “However, we need to keep in mind that we still have the playoffs and the AFC Cup in front of us and both competitions are very important to Kitchee. With the final group match in the AFC Cup fast approaching, we really need to make sure we nail down the top spot in the group and advance to the next round. Heck, we need to at least progress to the quarter-final!”