The New Paper Dollah Kassim Award nominee: Justin Hui
NFA U-18 captain balances JC studies with football
It's been quite a year for Justin Hui.
In his second season in the Prime League, he was made captain of the National Football Academy (NFA) Under-18s for an extended spell by coach Takuya Inoue, before earning a call-up to the Garena Young Lions and making his S.League debut against Brunei DPMM in September.
All these, while also continuing with his studies at Meridian Junior College.
His on-field ability and off-field qualities have earned him a place on the shortlist for this year's TNP-Dollah Kassim Award - the second successive year he has got the nod.
He may be 18, but Justin already exudes a certain level of maturity, which perhaps explains how he manages his juggling act.
Speaking to The New Paper recently, he joked: "My mother is a teacher, while my father is a football fanatic, so I can't really run away from the expectations!
"I've made some tough decisions and still do.
"I had to take my end-year exams and my studies are still important to me, so I decided to sacrifice (playing in) the AFF Under-19 Youth Championship in Vietnam (in September).
"It's not easy but, in the end, it all comes down to hard work."
Referring to his defensive midfielder, Inoue said Justin's ability to read games and his tactical understanding were his best attributes.
His experiences this year suggest he is on the fast track, but Justin insists he is happy to take things one step at a time, even though next year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games are on the horizon.
"Before the year started, there were certain goals that I listed for myself," he revealed.
"Obviously, seeing (NFA Under-18 teammates) Hami (Syahin) and Rusyaidi (Salime) promoted to the Young Lions, one of my goals was to make it there.
"It was a little frustrating not to have more opportunities but the Young Lions have plenty of good central midfielders, and I know I'll get there eventually, if I keep working hard.
"Of course, the aim is to push on and go up to the Under-21s, but I'm not going to rush.
"My motto is to work hard, set targets each year and achieve them."
In the build-up to last year's TNP-Dollah Kassim Award ceremony, Patrick, Justin's father, recalled how he did not hold back in providing constructive criticism of his performances.
While he revealed that remains the case, the private tutor spoke with pride over what his son has accomplished this year.
"With the studying and the football, I think he's done quite well and I'm very proud," said Patrick.
"Playing for the Young Lions is also a good sign that his hard work is being recognised, but I still have higher targets for him.
"It's not just about being the best locally but also he has to try and be the best in the region, or even in Asia.
"If you want to be good and be a professional, then you always have to aim to be better."
Name: Justin Hui
Team: NFA U-18
Position: Central midfielder
Date of birth: Feb 17, 1998
Favourite team: Liverpool
Favourite players: Steven Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho