Matthew Lam has graced the professional game in Hong Kong for nearly five years and has been an important factor for Kitchee’s long and sustained period of success. Before he settled in Hong Kong, Lam took a long winding journey from Edmonton, Canada, which encompassed England, the Netherlands, Croatia and Japan, as he sought to make the professional grade.
Persistence paid off and Kitchee have given him the stability to take his game to the next level. For the well-travelled Lam, Hong Kong is his current home and he is delighted to be part of this Kitchee side, who are again in the title hunt in the Premier League.
The silky-skilled Lam is also approachable and has no ‘airs and graces’, which has made him a fan favourite in Hong Kong. Far and away from the view of a modern professional player, he simply takes the MTR to the training sessions in Shatin.
From a player who has appeared in club friendlies against Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain, Matt Lam went on to discuss his best memories from his time with Kitchee, recalling the famous treble winning season (2014-2015, under the guidance of Jose Molina), when they won the league as well as FA and League Cup respectively.
“I think the recent treble winning season was probably the best memory for me. Obviously to win trophies is special, but to win three in a year does not happen very often, no matter which league you are playing in, so I think this was fantastic for me overall. It is hard, as there are so many good moments and memories, but that year everything seemed to be working and clicking.”
In his midfield role, he has been akin to a few vital goals, which have always helped spur Kitchee onto further success. Lam shared his memories of some crucial goals, including one which has been wiped off the records, though he still keeps the memory afresh in his mind.
“In that same treble winning season, I scored a goal against Pegasus. It was a header, which was really nicely created by Paulinho, and it wasn’t an unbelievable screamer into the top of the net or into a corner or something like that. It was just the moment that it was in, as we were in the midst of fighting for the title and it assured us the three points in that game, so it was a huge, huge goal. Probably the best goal I scored was against Tuen Mun, about three years ago, but that one was wiped from the records due to that scandal (Tuen Mun was later suspended due to match fixing allegations), which was unfortunate, but I guess I can keep it on the highlight reel!”
Kitchee have some of the most loyal fans in Hong Kong to the extent that a decent number of them travelled to South Korea for Kitchee’s Asian Champions League qualifier against Ulsan. Lam recognises that fans are one of the core factors to the success of a club and are the heartbeat of the professional game in Hong Kong. Lam appreciates how the Kitchee fans have been there through thick and thin with the players and even spend time to create chants for all the players.
“After the games, there is always the same set of fans waiting around to get pictures and autographs. They love it and us as players, we love it too. It is nice to be watched and respected by the fans. Even for our away game in South Korea, there were around twenty fans who came to support the team and that is pretty impressive for any team in any league, not just for a small Hong Kong club. It was great to be around fans who are so loyal.”
All players have role models and those who they look up to for motivation and inspiration. When asked who inspired him, Lam said that his Kitchee team mate Huang Yang was the ideal role model in all that he did: his playing style, work ethic and discipline.
“I would have to say that as a team mate and as a whole, one of the best players in the league is Huang Yang. He is a great role model for all players and he just puts his head down and does his work better than most. You would be hard-pressed to find a better player and a better person in general. I think it is clear to see, as he is respected by not only our team, but by all teams, managers and referees. I can be right in the referee’s ear quite a bit, but Huang Yang is just overall a great role model for any player, also any young player coming up. To have his mentality is definitely a good one.”
Lam also went on to discuss Kitchee’s famed style of play and their short passing game, which is integral to their playing philosophy.
“New players, who come into the team, have to integrate, because it is just really part of the Kitchee DNA now. I wasn’t here in the very early years, when Joseph Gombeau took on the team. He was the one who initiated this style of play, but I was happy to join Kitchee, as I like playing that type of football. It suits me well, and it has definitely become a huge part of the club. It is not always easy to be the team which plays out from the back and passes their way through, and you always have to adjust and change things here and there. It is also a brand of football that the fans like to see.”
Matt Lam, the consummate professional, is a class act on and off the pitch and if you are lucky, you will be able to bump into him on the MTR one day.