On Saturday Luis Garcia will say goodbye to KAS Eupen. At the home game against Sint-Truiden VV the captain will wear the KAS jersey with the number 10 for the last time. For 5 years Luis Garcia has shaped KAS Eupen as a personality on and off the pitch. Luis Garcia has led KAS Eupen into 1st division and helped the club to start in the Jupiler Pro League for the fourth time in a row this summer. In a conversation, the captain looks back on his time at the KAS Eupen.
Do you remember your first day in Eupen? What were your impressions?
I remember my first day in Eupen very well. It was a sunny day in July 2014 and I met Tintin Marquez in the stadium. The former coach of KAS Eupen is my friend and he sparked my enthusiasm for the Eupen football project. First I watched the training and then Tintin showed me the club and the city. My impressions were very positive, Eupen is a beautiful little town and the club was familiar, both were immediately likeable for me.
You played 5 complete years for the club and competed in 181 games for KAS Eupen, how did the club develop during this time?
Oh, the club has changed and improved a lot in those 5 years. When I got here, we played in 2nd league and the goal was to move up to 1st league. We didn’t manage that in the first year, but after my second season here in Eupen we did. That was a very important step, not only for KAS Eupen, but also for the city and the whole region. This is a great sporting but also an economic success. When we start in 1st division for the fourth time in a row, it is proof that KAS Eupen has continuously developed and the club is stable. This also means that the employees, most of whom have been with the club for several years, have been able to gather their experience in the environment of 1st division.
Let’s talk about your time as a player of KAS Eupen, where you have shown top performances until the end, with many important goals and assists and numerous nominations for the Pro League Team of the Week. But the first year in Eupen wasn’t your best year in the eyes of many observers. Do you share that point of view?
Yes, I agree. With the move from Spain to Belgium many things were new for me and I had to change: I had to make do with a very physical and less technical football in 2nd league at that time, then there was the weather, the pitches and also my new team. But little by little I adapted and was able to perform at my very best again.
What impression do you have of the first Belgian division?
There are good teams here with players who could also play in other European leagues. But the most important thing is that KAS Eupen belongs to this circle. The stadiums are good and overall you can really play football in Belgium. Except for the weather, but you can’t change that.
Which player in the Belgian Pro League impressed you the most on the pitch?
I’d like to name three players: Alejandro Pozuelo and Ruslan Malinovskyi from KRC Genk and Hans Vanaken from FC Bruges. And of those three, Hans Vanaken is the one who left the strongest impression on me.
After leaving Eupen you are aiming for a career as a coach, do you feel ready for this new stage of your career?
Yes, I feel ready to go, I acquired my UEFA license last year and will complete my training as a UEFA Pro coach next week. I have also worked with Angel Cortes’ U21 team at KAS Eupen and have already gained some practical experience. It is also important here that you always have to give everything in football. But of course I’ll have to wait and see what opportunities I’ll ultimately have to start my coaching career.
In football, you have achieved a great deal and acquired great skills. The psychological aspect certainly also plays an important role for a coach, are you prepared for this?
Of course, this is a very important aspect of coaching work. The coach has to lead the team and the individual players and has to provide an environment in which everyone gives their best. Sometimes psychology plays a more important role than tactics. And as a coach, you have to master both. I have the impression that I have these skills. What I don’t have yet, I have to work on. The fact is that as a coach you have to manage a lot of different things.
Could you imagine one day working as a coach for your current employers, KAS Eupen or Aspire?
Why not? You shouldn’t slam a door in football. I have always felt comfortable here in Eupen and I have always tried to support the Aspire Academy project because the Aspire project is top and unique worldwide. Together the KAS Eupen and Aspire have successfully developed many players, the African talents, but also the young Qatari players, who have now even won the Asian Championship. I am proud to have contributed to this success. Why not continue this cooperation in the future?
If you had to give an insight to a young player, what would you tell him?
The most important thing is to get the most out of every single training session. Time moves so fast and once you are 30, you realize how fast our sport is moving. That’s why, especially as a young player, you have to take everything you’re offered with you. Therefore: Listen to the coach, because he knows football. And football is too beautiful to let the time and opportunities pass by unused.
What impressions will you keep of Eupen and its surroundings?
Above all, the hospitality and respect I have experienced from each and every one here. I was very happy here because everyone was very helpful to me and to my family. I will never forget that.
Saturday is the day: Before the match against Sint-Truiden you will enter the changing room of the Kehrweg Stadium for the last time. What will be your feelings?
I don’t know, but it’s going to be a hard day for me, that’s for sure. Much will go through my mind. Here I have experienced many important and intense moments with my team, with the coaching teams and the fans, which I will never forget. When you leave a club after 5 years, there are many feelings and memories associated with it. But with all the pain I’m going to feel when I say goodbye, I’m going to try to enjoy this day.
Thank you Luis, for this interview and for everything! All the best to you and your family!