Life is about journeys, the people you meet and the wonderful discoveries that are made along the way, and professional footballers such as Juan Belencosco are no different in their experiences.
From his home town of Elche de la Sierra in Spain, the chances to see beyond his own country have presented themselves and Belencoso has grasped each to broaden his horizons, explore the world and of course, score goals at the highest level. From Spain to Portugal to Hong Kong to Indonesia and now India, his journey continues to gather pace.
From arriving in Hong Kong wide-eyed as it was the first time he had been to the Asia Pacific, Belencosco has adapted to the Asian football scene and become a fan favourite in many places.
Importantly, the affable Belencosco has always sought to understand the cultures and peoples of the world he has met and has always had the attitude that he truly plays for the love of the game with the knowledge that it is a privilege and to enjoy every moment that comes his way.
Life is about joys and struggles and after a brief stint in Indonesia with Persib Bandung, Belencoso has now reunited with his former Kitchee manager and Spanish international Jose Molina in one of the fastest growing football markets, India. The former Kitchee duo are now at Atlético de Kolkata in the Indian Super League where both are ready to face the new opportunity to win the league title and to promote the game of football in one of the world’s most populous nations.
Belencosco is delighted to be reunited with his mentor and continues to learn his trade from Molina. The two will be hoping they can recreate the unparalleled levels of success which they achieved at Kitchee. Hong Kong is where Belencoso felt the most at home and for several successful seasons, he gained respect from both his peers and the fans as his silky skills lit up the league and took Kitchee to a period of unchallenged success.
Belencosco maybe in the ‘Indian Summer’ of his career though his positive attitude will mean that he will continue to work hard wherever he goes. Another country and yet another challenge for the once football loving boy whose subsequent life journey has taken him on a trip far beyond his wildest dreams and allowed him to soar immense heights.
Elche de la Sierra sometimes seems like a distant memory yet is always with him as he continues his global journey.
In an exclusive interview with Christopher KL Lau, Juan Belencosco shares his new experiences in India.
Are you excited about your new challenge in India? How are you finding life in India so far?
Of course, for me it is a great opportunity and I am very happy to be able to have the chance to enjoy time in the Indian Super league. Indian life is good. We live three months of the competition in a hotel which is great and on our free days we get to visit all the wonders that Kolkata has to offer.
Atlético de Kolkata fans are very passionate. Do you think this will help both you and the team?
Yes, I’m sure the amazing Atlético de Kolkata fan support from the stands helps us to win games. This year we have a nice stadium and although it is less crowded in terms of numbers, I still hope that together with the fans, we can win the title.
Atlético de Kolkata have a strong Spanish connection. Is the team expected to play with a Spanish style?
Yes, Atlético de Kolkata is a team with many European players and Spanish coaching staff. Jose Molina’s style is one touch football and is very attractive for spectators and the team has the ideal players for this style. The Indian players in the team are also becoming more suited to this new style with every training.
How does it feel to be reunited with your manager, Jose Molina?
When I got the call from Jose Molina, I did not think for a second! For me, it is a pleasure and honour to return to training and play on his team. With Molina, I’ve got my best numbers and statistics in terms of goals as a scorer and of course, the three titles I won at the Kitchee with him and all our Kitchee teammates. I am grateful for this opportunity and hopefully we can win a new title together in the Indian Super League.
The India Super League is growing and developing. Do you think football can ever be the most popular sport in India?
Honestly, this league (Indian Super League) is very well organised in every way. It is the fourth most watched league in the world behind England, Spain and Germany. Here in India, many people like football though the king of sports here is still cricket and Indians are amongst the best in the world at it.
Do you miss Hong Kong? Do you have a message for Hong Kong football fans, especially the ones at Kitchee?
Hong Kong was an important part of my football career and life – for me and my family in general. My son was very happy in Hong Kong and even though he is not even three years old, he often tells me “Papi, I want to go to Hong Kong”. Of course, my friends and the whole Kitchee team – including the players, staff and bosses – made my time in Hong Kong so memorable. For me, it was an honour to play for Kitchee and I still wish them the greatest professional success.