Justin knows the score

Justin knows the score
Justin Hui.
PHOTO: The New Paper

His football journey kicked off in an unusual way - with a ping pong ball on a basketball court.

Justin Hui, who was seven at the time, was inspired after watching the Liverpool-Sao Paulo clash in the 2005 Fifa Club World Championship final. The following week, Justin and his primary school friends decided to play football.

With no football, they made do with a ping pong ball.

On that day, football officially became his life and, 10 years later, he is one of six nominees for The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award 2015.

The award is named after the late Dollah, who was widely regarded as one of Singapore's most skilful players.

He died at the age of 61 in 2010.

Initiated by The New Paper in partnership with Singapore Pools and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in 2010 - the award recognises both footballing excellence and character, both of which Dollah had in abundance.

"I'm serious about doing my job and helping my teammates on the field," said Justin, who is a self-professed "joker" off the pitch.

"I believe in hard work. I always arrive 30 minutes before training to work on my own.

"I juggle the ball and practise my free-kicks.

"I don't joke around once I am on the pitch."

The defensive midfielder is currently in the National Football Academy's (NFA) Under-17 team and starred for his school, Meridian Junior College, when they won the National A Division title this year.

SECOND GOAL

In the final against Nanyang Junior College in May, he scored the second goal in his team's 3-2 extra-time win.

Football has already become a big part of his life. He played for Holy Innocents' Primary School before joining the Singapore Sports School, where he was selected for the NFA when he was in Secondary 2.

Justin admits he is feeling the strain of juggling studies and sport, but he is determined.

"Yes, JC is very tough, but I want to play football. Football is always also a priority in many ways," he said.

It helps that dad, Patrick, a private tutor, shares his love for football. Patrick frequently attends Justin's matches, and does not pull his punches when criticising his son.

Said Justin: "His comments can be negative. But he has my interest at heart, and I really appreciate it. I have made plenty of sacrifices.

"I wake up, go straight to school, then go for training, before heading straight home. Of course, it's worth it. I want to make a career out of football and, one day, play in Europe."

His father added: "This year has been especially tough for him, because he worked so hard to get into the ASEAN Football Federation U-19 and Asian Football Confederation Under-19 Championship squads.

"He wants to play for the national team one day. But he has to work hard, because there are quite a number of good players out there."


This article was first published on November 3, 2015.
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