“You looked knackered in that photo!” – “I was knackered in that photo. I ran around endlessly all night”, humble Jaimes McKee once recalled. The photo in question, with McKee looking totally exhausted, was from the famous Hong Kong versus China World Cup qualifying match that was held at Mong Kok Stadium back in 2015. That evening, in the cauldron of Hong Kong’s home stadium, McKee showed the characteristics which have made him such a fan favourite: a huge heart and the willingness to work hard.
So it came a bit as a shock when on July 16th Jaimes McKee announced his retirement from the professional game at the relatively young age of 32.
For those who know him, he is far and away from being the typical superstar footballer. Instead, he truly played for the love of the game whilst realising that he had been given an incredible opportunity which he had managed to seize without any regrets. There have been some impressive feats along the way, including scoring five goals on the last day of the 2012-2013 season to clinch the golden boot and of course his 12 goals for Hong Kong. For now, only eight players scored more than him. McKee’s 52 appearances for the national team even put him into the current top 10 of Hong Kong’s most capped players.
In a short statement to the local football community, the Hong Kong international has decided that he needs a change in his life and that he is ready to close this chapter of his journey.
“It’s hard to put into words. The Hong Kong fans have been absolutely fantastic. They’ve given me so many amazing memories. I wish I could have given them more to celebrate, maybe scored a few more of my chances, but I’m incredibly lucky to have represented Hong Kong for so many years. Thank you!”
For Hong Kong fans, this news will be hard to take, as he has been such a consistent part of the local football scene for over a decade. A regular ‘everyman’ who grafted away for his teams, he may could have offered many more years, though he felt his time in the game as a player was up and wanted to move onto newer pastures.
McKee started his career at the Hong Kong Football Club, but it was at Pegasus and then Eastern where he truly flourished as a player. This also let him step through another open door of opportunity, as he became a consistent part of the Hong Kong national men’s team. There was definitely a huge weight of expectations on his young shoulders, yet he was level-headed enough to handle the intense pressure.
Those epic World Cup qualifying games in 2015, in which Hong Kong held China twice to goalless draws, brought him a new level of celebrity, yet he remained true to himself, grounded and hardworking. He seemed always just happy to play, while always wanting to improve, yet occasionally pinching himself to see if this was all just one incredible dream.
McKee will now face the same daunting transition that many professional athletes undertake when they retire, and as both the floodlights and the adulation fade, he will have to decide what to do next. McKee has many interests off the pitch and always wants to learn, though it has not been all plain sailing in the archaic world of local football, so he hopes to make a difference in one way or another. Coaching is something which he wishes to pursue, and there is no doubt he will pursue this with the same vigour which he showed as a player.
Every time he stepped onto a pitch, McKee played his heart out and this was apparent for all to see. Maybe he knew that football, like life, is transient, and that for all his efforts, the “game” itself would not last forever and the cheers would slowly drift away. Thus, he sought to squeeze every moment that he could out of the game he loves.
Many will be forever grateful for his tireless efforts and wish him all the best in the next stage of his life journey.
The playing boots have been permanently slung up yet the many memories will persist. One door has shut and there is no turning back, yet surely, another door will open soon.