The Brazilian Ricardo Rambo has been in Hong Kong for nearly twenty years and is a mainstay of the professional game in Hong Kong as both former player and manager. Rambo has seen both the highs and lows of the professional game here and is well versed about the local league. Hong Kong is now home for the affable Rambo. In an interview with offside.hk, he reflected on his many memories.
I arrived in Hong Kong in 1998-1999 and I came at a really great time, as back then many many people used to come to the stadium to watch South China. As an overseas player who was new to Hong Kong, it was great that they were so enthusiastic if you played well. A good memory from that time was when they selected foreign players to participate in the Lunar New Year Carlsberg Cup and also the Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup. I was selected for both and I made it into the Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup squad. We played well home and away and it was a really good memory, along with the trophies we won with South China.”
Rambo was also selected for the famed Hong Kong League XI, which went through a period of playing and defeating some of the best clubs and national teams in the world.
“For the Hong Kong League XI, I remember we played against Peñarol and Uruguay. These were great competitive games. The Bulgarian defender Dimitre Kalkanov was there as well, and also Gary McKee, who was a great player. These were great times as we mixed the best overseas players with the best local players to show some top quality games. Players like Au Wai-lun also began to break through.”
From a seasoned player, whose career straddled both the Brazilian and Hong Kong leagues, Rambo slowly made the transition into coaching and management.
“It was normal for me to move to management. When I was at Happy Valley, I was both playing and assisting, and this transition was good for me. It was not like ‘You are going to stop now and have a new career’. In the following season, I got the assistant coach job and after that, I got the head coach position. I basically took over and I tried to get more qualifications as a coach, so I did some coaching courses in Brazil and finally with UEFA. I also attended a course in England and so I was able to combine all my knowledge. From that time on, I also worked with academies at some schools with young kids, so it was nice to see the development of youth players in Hong Kong.”
Rambo went on further to share some of his treasured memories as a manager in Hong Kong.
“Especially when I was assistant coach at South China, I learnt a lot of things from the overseas managers. When I was at Pegasus, we had a really good run, a good time and a great spirit. We won a few cups and then we got to play against Manchester City and Juventus. These were great memories and I also remember my time with Sun Hei. When no one really gave us a chance, we won a cup and got to play in the AFC Cup as well.”
Rambo also reflected on his recent time at South China when he took the ‘Caroliners’ on a dramatic run in the AFC Cup, only to lose to Malaysian giants Johor Darul Takzim.
“I have been in Hong Kong for a long time and I know the philosophy is that you always have to win. When I managed South China for a while, the situation was not so good. But slowly the attitude of the players became much better. In the AFC Cup we had a very good run and lost to Johor by one goal. The management saw this success and they kept me as a coach for the following season. I could not bring in any of my own players. The squad remained the same, so I tried to oversee youth development.”
“The quality of the team improved steadily, especially with a new fitness coach and a new goalkeeping coach. Training was really professional, but I know in Hong Kong results are key. But actually they were not too bad. We only lost one game and we drew with both Kitchee and Eastern.”
“My run with South China came to an end due to that single loss. As a coach I know where the team can go and I was hoping the players would evolve further. When I left South China, they were still fighting for the league title, which they are not anymore. I felt my work was not yet done.”
Rambo also reflected on what he is presently doing.
“I had a break to analyse what could be done better and I have been continually learning and watching games in Hong Kong as I hope to get back into coaching soon. I have been doing some academy coaching and watching the development of young players. I have had some offers, so let’s see what happens.”