Youth Development ● Mar 14, 2018
Hougang teen Justin Hui named The Straits Times Young Athlete of the Year
The 20-year-old midfielder picked up the accolade after a stellar season for his school and hopes to push on in his career
Hougang United midfielder Justin Hui picked up the inaugural The Straits Times Young Athlete of the Year award (Source: The Straits Times ¬© Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction)
SINGAPORE, 13 MARCH 2018 – Appointed as captain of the school’s football team in his final year, Justin Hui knew the burden placed on his shoulders.
But the midfielder rose to the challenge of leading Meridian Junior College (MJC) to a historic fourth “A” Division title in a row, plundering a sensational hat-trick in the final to see off Victoria Junior College 3-1 at Jalan Besar Stadium last May.
On Tuesday afternoon, Hui held aloft another trophy when he was named the inaugural The Straits Times (ST) Young Athlete of the Year.
The award is the culmination of the ST Young Star of the Month series, launched last August to recognise outstanding student-athletes from the Schools National Games.
The Hougang United FC midfielder, who turned 20 last month, was delighted to pick up the gong at the ceremony held at Mandarin Orchard Hotel.
“I had high hopes for myself,” he said after edging judoka Wang Jinghan, gymnast Lincoln Forest Liqht Man and squash player Kan Weng Yean. “The other nominees did well but in the end, I am happy that I won.
“It means quite a lot to me as I missed out on two The New Paper (TNP)-Dollah Kassim awards (previously)… I am really happy that my hard work paid off and was recognised.”
Dressed smartly in suit and tie, Hui paid tribute to his team-mates as he reflected on MJC’s triumph, which was their ninth overall.
“Every year we are expected to at least make the final and as I was appointed captain, I had to play a bigger role,” he said.
“Winning it four times in a row was a dream and mission that started before I even entered (MJC), so I knew coming into the year that the fourth title was pretty crucial and I am very happy that we got it.
“I had scored in the final in 2015, but I didn’t expect three goals (this time); it was a little unbelievable, but the team worked hard and provided me with the base to score three goals.”
Hui’s footballing journey would not have been possible without the support from his family, even though his mother did not approve initially.
“We managed to win her over and allow Justin to go to the Singapore Sports School, and that is where he began to bloom,” recalled his father, Patrick. “Since young, he’s been a very quick learner; football-wise, he started around eight or nine but he picked it up faster than his peers.”
Beaming, the 58-year-old added: “I am proud of him and happy for him. He has worked very hard and sacrificed a lot of other things.”
Hougang head coach Philippe Aw, who gave Hui his professional debut last season in the league, concurred.
“It is not easy to be studying in a JC and also be committed to both school and club football,” he said. “The manner in which he led his school to the championship, I think he deserves it.
“When we took him into Hougang, we already knew he was from Sports School and the NFA (now FAS Football Academy) and saw his abilities. He’s a thinking footballer, he works very hard and has a good attitude, he won’t give you problems.”
Aw also highlighted Hui’s resilience and believes that the attacking midfielder, who has played at the Under-20 level for Singapore, is capable of breaking into the senior Lions set-up.
“He knows football can be his career and he is willing to put in sacrifices,” the 41-year-old said. “If everything goes well, he stays on track and gets the opportunities, he should be in the national team in two, three years.
“Of course, there are many more things he needs to improve on – to learn the game and get more experience. We hope to give him more exposure and want to help him become a national player.”
One senses that Hui, who has been promoted to the main Hougang squad this season, will give his utmost in order to realise his dream of playing professionally in future.
“This season, the main goal is to improve as much as possible… performance-wise, be more consistent and learn from the senior players and hopefully this season turns out well,” he asserted.
“In the next few years, I want to establish myself as a key player and get a call-up to the senior side. I am also hoping I can get (to play for) a club overseas like Zulfahmi (Arifin, who joined Thai top flight side Chonburi FC from Hougang United FC this season) – I want to push my limits and go as far as possible.”