Emily may look just like any Malaysian teenage girl, but you probably wouldn’t have guessed that she is the Captain of our national under-14 women’s football team!
Hailing from a small town in Kota Marudu, Sabah called Tandek, Hellma Emily Joinin used to travel about 60km from her home to attend school at SK Magandai, along with her parents who are both teachers at the school.
Under normal circumstances in the city, travelling a distance of 60km should take you roughly an hour or more, depending on traffic (and the way you drive). But in Emily’s case, traffic was the least of her worries.
Emily and her parents had to endure adverse weather and poor road conditions in the remote village in order to get to school.
Sometimes, the roads were so bad that vehicles were not able to pass, which means they had to walk to school!
Have you ever tried walking for 60km? It’s safe to say that most of us probably haven’t attempted walking this far at one go.
For this family, walking to school could end up becoming a two-day journey! Even with a high-powered four-wheel drive or motorbike, the journey could still take as long as nine hours!
That’s A LOT of walking for a six-year-old.
Oh, yes. Did we mention that Emily started her primary education at the age of six? She has always been one year ahead of her peers when it came to her studies and even sat for the UPSR exams at 11.
And she totally nailed her UPSR exams by scoring straight As, making her the first student in the history of SK Magandai to score such excellent results!
The 14-year-old is set to sit for her PT3 exams this year, and we believe that she will continue to achieve excellence in her academics despite her involvement in football.
Starting her young
Emily started the journey to her professional football career at the age of eight when the first Astro Hostel was built for the students from SK Magandai.
Many students from remote villages, including Emily, were able to live comfortably and closer to school at the same time.
During her time in school, she discovered her interest in football when she attended her first Astro Kem Bola programme in Kota Kinabalu in 2013.
She displayed tremendous potential in the sport during the camp and successfully progressed to the Advanced Training stage with 64 other top participants from across Malaysia.
Her talent and determination in football eventually scored her a spot among the top 16 girls to attend a 14-day Astro Kem Bola Overseas Training Programme in Cardiff, United Kingdom, giving her the opportunity to learn from the best international football coaches.
Emily’s achievements impressed the Football Association of Malaysia’s under-14 women’s team head coach Zhang Hong, who recruited her to be part of the national football squad.
Aside from representing Malaysia in the national team as the captain, she is also attending Sekolah Sukan Malaysia Sabah, which is the country’s first national sports school that trains girls in football.
But Emily’s life as a national football player and secondary school student is not easy due to her hectic schedule.
She trains every morning and evening for up to four hours a day and attends school from 9am to 3pm. Apart from that, she also dedicates some time at night to focus on her studies.
Things didn't come easy
In the beginning, Emily admitted that she was very stressed out with the multiple roles she had to play, especially as team captain.
“I had a lot of responsibilities and I felt it was unfair when my teammates were able to rest and I couldn’t,” she expressed.
However, as time went by, she finally understood and accepted her role.
Some of the tournaments Emily has led her team to play include the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under 16 Girls Regional Championship 2016 in China, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under 14 Girls Regional Championship 2016 in Laos, Gothia Cup World Youth Tournament 2016 in Sweden, and many more.
This is truly an amazing feat for the small town girl and she wants to prove to others than football isn’t just a sport for boys - girls too can excel in it.
“My dream is to become a football coach because I want to educate people more about the sport and develop the women’s football team here in Malaysia. If we don’t do it, then who else will?” she shared.
Emily is just one of the many success stories of the Astro Hostel project.
Initiated in 2011, Astro Hostel is aimed at enabling students living in remote areas to enjoy, learn and play in safer environments, at the same time encouraging them to strive towards academic excellence.
SK Magandai was the first school selected to be the recipient of this community project.