'Chino' the superstar

'Chino' the superstar

A Spanish footballer is making waves in Hong Kong's first division

In only his first season in the local First Division Football League, Roberto Losada Rodriguez already proved himself to be its top player.

As he led his team, Kitchee, to a championship, Rodriguez won three individual awards in the 2010-11 season: Hong Kong Footballer of the Year, Most Popular Player and Hong Kong Star of Football.

The Spaniard is nicknamed "Chino", which means "Chinese" in Spanish, because his friends think he looks Chinese. That only added to his popularity locally.

Before he moved to Hong Kong, Rodriguez played for 15 years in La Liga, Spain's first division. He joined Kitchee last year because the team's Spanish coach, Josep Gombau, wanted him. Chino said he also wanted to go to experience something new in his life.

Rodriguez considers last season the most successful in his 16-year professional football career. But he doesn't want to hog the limelight.

"Every player and staff member contributes to the success of the team. We are like a big family fighting for a common goal. That's why the ultimate success belongs to the whole team," he says.

When asked about the most memorable moment in the past season, Rodriguez cites the match against South China in Hong Kong Stadium, which Kitchee won 4-3.

With the victory, Kitcheee moved to first place in the standings and captured the league title in the end.

Yet Rodriguez stresses that the new season will be tough. "We won the title last season and will be regarded as the team to beat. Every team will be aiming to beat us," he says.

Although Kitchee performed brilliantly last season, Rodriguez thinks there is still a lot of room for improvement for players.

"Hong Kong players' mentality is not good enough," he says.

"In Spain, every player wants to play in La Liga. Seeing very harsh competition, Spanish players train hard every day to achieve their goals."

That kind of resolve is often lacking in local players, he says: "They are complacent with what they possess now, playing in the local first division, and they lack the determination to move to leagues of a higher standard."

Rodriguez, who will soon be 35, expects to end his footballing career in two years. He wants to stay in the sport, however, perhaps becoming a coach for Kitchee.

As a veteran, Rodriguez knows the importance of keeping fit. He places heavy emphasis on his diet: he avoids fatty foods, fast foods and fizzy drinks.

He trains hard every day.

He has useful bits of advice to aspiring professional footballers:

"Take your time and work hard. Always push yourself to be your best, no matter how difficult it is. You have to learn from others to make yourself better and better. And last but not least make sure you enjoy playing football."



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