Professional Achievement Award – Junior Eldstal
UK degree: Bsc in Sports Coaching and Development
Junior Eldstal is the first Malaysian professional football player to win both the Malaysia Premier League and Super League trophies undefeated with two different teams.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS AS A PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLER
I signed my first professional contract for Malaysia Premier League side Sarawak in 2013. In that first year I helped Sarawak win promotion to the Malaysia Super League, going undefeated all season. I earned international caps against Chelsea and Barcelona and represented Malaysia in the under-23 side in the Asia Cup, scoring the winning goal in the final. That same year I was recognised as 100PLUS Malaysia Football Association’s young player of the year.
Next I signed a two-year contract with footballing giant Johor Darul Ta’Zim (JDT) where I went on to win the Charity Shield, Super League, and made history winning the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup as the first Malaysian team to do so.
This season at JDT we have won the treble; the Charity Shield, FA Cup and the domestic league. I have become the first Malaysian player to win both the Malaysia Premier League and the Super League undefeated, with two different teams.
HOW DID STUDYING IN THE UK IMPACT YOUR SUCCESS ON THE PITCH?
At a young age, I went through a lot of disappointment in football – being released as a youth player and fighting injuries.
I fell out of love with sport and decided I wanted a degree. Luckily for me, Hartpury University Centre (UWE) – offered a course and a system where you can do both. So I pursued a degree in the UK while chasing my dream.
Training full time with the excellent facilities available there, along with great coaching staff made me the player I am. I would not be where I am today if I had not been given the opportunity to study in the UK.
HOW HAS YOUR SUCCESS IMPACTED THE FOOTBALL INDUSTRY IN MALAYSIA?
I have signed sponsorship deals with Nike, Men’s Health, FourFourTwo and been in the media spotlight as I was the first mixed-heritage player to represent the national team in the history of Malaysian football. Following my success, Malaysia have now recruited more mixed-heritage players to strengthen the national side and league.
I am a firm believer in the ‘student athlete player’ and am heavily involved in the football academies across Asia like Kem Bola, that give children from deprived backgrounds the opportunity to follow their dreams as I did.
Junior Eldstal is the winner of the Study UK Alumni Award for Professional Achievement, Malaysia 2017.