Humble Mohamed Sissoko holds nothing back in latest Hong Kong premier league adventure
Having donned the colors of famous European sides such as Valencia, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, Sissoko was personally recruited by Auxerre legend Guy Roux, who nurtured football greats such as Eric Cantona and Djibril Cissé, at the tender age of twelve. Despite not making a single first team appearance for Auxerre, Sissoko was scooped up by Spanish side Valencia at seventeen years-old and went on to enjoy a trophy-laden football career in Europe.
While people might think Sissoko’s career has been all rosy and smooth, yet there was a time when the imposing midfielder actually doubted himself. At one point, a serious eye injury threw Sissoko’s upward-trending career into tailspin, nearly forcing him to retire early from the game that he dearly loves.
Travelling down Memory Lane and looking back on his tender teenage years, when he was scouted and recruited by then-Valencia head coach Rafael Benitez before even playing a single minute of first team football with Auxerre. Sissoko shed light on how he had doubts on whether he could ever cut it in La Liga.
“It was quite intimidating the first time that I stepped into the Valencia dressing room,” recalled the towering midfielder.
“The club had a lot of wonderful players back then and it was literally a star-studded lineup, including the likes of Vincente, Pablo Aimar and Roberto Ayala. I really doubted whether I was cut out for that caliber of football but I decided to buckle down, practice hard and keep improving myself. At the end, I was part of the Valencia team that won the UEFA Cup and accomplished something that lots of players could only dream of.”
Tasting success early in his professional career and collecting a prestigious UEFA Cup winner’s medal before reaching the age of twenty, Sissoko did not let success come to his head. Instead, the lanky midfielder seemed to have gained a unique perspective on the often-cruel world of professional football.
“When you help your side to win games, people are all eager to jump on your bandwagon,” Sissoko commented. “However, when you screw up just one bit, the moaners will be out and ready to jump on your case. I am blessed that through all those years, my family and friends have always stood beside me, giving me their unconditional support, allowing me to go all in pursuing my dreams.”
As a matter of fact, having lifted the UEFA Cup trophy with Valencia, as well as donning the famous kit of French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain., the likable Sissoko still insists his days with Liverpool and “the Old Lady” Juventus remain the highlight of his distinguished career.
On the same token, spells with these prestigious European football clubs have also enabled Sissoko to come up with his own take on the glittering world of professional football.
“In the football world, fame and fortune can come really quick. But young players need to remember that these things can disappear just as fast as they come. It is just like my Liverpool days when I picked up a serious knock on my eye while going in for a tackle. The doctors told me back then my career was likely finished, and I felt so helpless at that moment. For me to beat the odds, to battle back and to make my return to the pitch, it really made me appreciated what I had,” explained the emotional Sissoko.
Nearly forced to part ways with his beloved football in the prime of his career, the now thirty-three years-old Sissoko has learnt to cherish his own career even more than before. Hence the experienced midfielder would like to see modern-day young players seizing every single opportunity that they have, instead of allowing a potential football career to slip through their fingers.
“Facing all the material possessions around you, the non-stop invitations from so-called friends and the temptations from the opposite sex, you really need to learn to say “no” at times,” Sissoko stated.
“There is no short cut to success and I still insist on hitting the gym for at least an hour after every practice session. If you want to succeed, then you need to sacrifice. If you are only willing to take a nonchalant attitude towards football, then you might as well go play with your friends for fun, as you are not suited to become a professional footballer.”
While Sissoko might have gone through a nomadic spell in recent years, with stops in China, India and Mexico, the former Mali international maintains the fire is still firmly burning inside his belly.
“No matter where I am, no matter whether the situation is good or bad, I still enjoy giving my 100% on the pitch. I love football and I still have a great passion for it,” Sissoko insists.
“That is why no matter where I am playing, I always play for the shirt that I am wearing – it will be exactly the same joining Kitchee! I am very ambitious about playing in Hong Kong and I hope to win more trophies for Kitchee. I understand the other teams might be gunning at us but let us roll up our sleeves and tackle all the future challenges together.”
He almost lost what he loves the most and he has since learnt to appreciate what he has. Sissoko plays exactly how he tackles – without holding anything back.