Joseph Mountford is a hopeful and promising newcomer in the Home United COE team. He admitted to feeling homesick in the initial stages of moving here from his home in Australia, but he has now reached the point where he would wind up missing Singapore on overseas trips. He is so well settled in that his best friend and younger brother is even enrolled in Home United’s Kid’s Academy.
Joseph is now midway into his second season with the club and during the interview, marveled at what a “crazy change” the move has been. This change, however, has been significantly more than just a “culture shock”. “I am surprised by how much I have developed since I got here.” The enthusiastic 17 year old spoke to us about leaving the comforts of home, having to adopt new mentalities and habits, and why this all has been worthwhile.
Going to extremes
In Australia, Joseph lived as a happy- go- lucky teenager who relished his “freedom”. What tore him away from that lifestyle he was so fond of was the “very family oriented” part of him. Joseph’s father had been working in Singapore before the family decided to join him here. “Three years before we moved here, my father got an I.T job in Singapore. We all moved here because we really missed him.”
Before he got here he had already heard from his father and coach about “how good Home United is.” He tried for Home United the very first day he was in Singapore. As if this was not proof enough of his dedication to football, Joseph went on to tell us about how emotionally invested he was in the six-week long selection process.
“There were three spots for foreigners, and one had already been confirmed. However, there was only a place left in the team. So when I got here, there were two of us trialing for one place.” Joseph experienced mixed emotions when he befriended the other foreign player (Felicien Dumas – currently with First XI) vying for that one spot. His interests did not remain split for much longer, as one spot was freed up when a confirmed player (Ashshiddiq Misban) moved to the NFA U-17s, allowing the two friends to earn their spots on the Home United team.
Joseph could not help but feel that he got lucky but his place on the team was also an outcome of his efforts. “I wanted to make it in so desperately. Coach Philippe would sometimes drop hints as to who he was signing.” Each time the verdict seemed to be against him, he felt “very down”. This drove him to grasp at straws to improve his chances of making the team. “I was so desperate to make it I went to extremes. I told myself I was not going to use any social media because I thought I could use that time to do rehab, gym, stretch, and other things instead.”
A change in pace
In the past year and a half, he experienced a change in pace of life, which drove him to reinforce his more ambitious side. He attended the Overseas Family School after getting to Singapore and immediately sensed how drastically different things were here. “In Australia, no one really does school work in their free time. I return from school, go for a surf, train and sleep. Things are less relaxed here because education is so much more serious.” He told us that even as football remains a priority, there is barely time left for leisure now that he has to devote his free time to school work.
“When I first got to the OFS and they said we had to do homework, I was like, ‘Not doing that, get out of here.’ (cheeky laugh).” Soon enough, he found himself making adjustments to fit into the local education system. “I think the pressure to do homework over here comes not from the possibility of punishment but from the desire for good grades. I associated myself with good people who were willing to work hard… and I started putting in effort and saw my grades go from Fs to As and A*s.”
For Joseph, transitioning into Home United similarly called upon this desire to work hard and perform well. “Home United was a step up from my previous club and part of progressing to a greater club is to be versatile and adapt to its new demands. I have a more attacking midfield role here in Home United than originally where I was more defensive. The coaches recognised that I was a more attacking player and are fantastic at helping me improve.”
The growth he made as a result of training with the team has shocked even himself. Earlier this year, he landed the opportunity to trial for professional English clubs and train among the football elite. “My father -who is English and used to play English football, albeit outside the four top divisions- told me, ‘you’re going to have to be really good [to get a shot at a trial].’ The level is just so high over there… I was surprised at how my experience at Home United has developed me so much that I could have gotten the opportunity”. He returned from England with further validation in the form of a positive assessment of his aptitude.
“Pretty much at home now”
What soothed the adjustment process for Joseph was the same thing that shocked him initially- “What was initially strange was that everyone [on the team] was so accepting and nice. Whenever I joined a new team in Australia, people there just looked at me, quite hostile, and sometimes think they can bully me just because I’m so small in size.”
“In Australia, we don’t get much contact with other nationalities. Singapore was a crazy change. Everyone is so used to diversity and so friendly and embracing of it.” Being on the team, where “everyone was almost too nice” was what helped him most with settling in as quickly as he did. “Since I started right away [at Home United], no time was wasted…It took me barely a year and I’m pretty much at home now”.
Joseph was introduced to delightful and sometimes “strange” elements of local culture by his teammates. “I often go out and enjoy local food with Gary Tran (who just left the team) and Seamus Chng. They always try to make me have strange local cuisine despite my refusal.” Fortunately, it was never necessary for him to “get used to” unpalatable exotic flavours. Because of the variety of food options, he can easily afford think, ‘Nope, not going to have that again’ after trying something he does not like. Besides, he barely has to think twice about what to eat here, “I eat a lot of Malay food like nasi lemak. Nasi lemak is definitely my favourite.”
“I have definitely taken to my local teammates more so than [to] my friends at the international school.” He attributes this to the remarkable experiences they share on the pitch. One such experience was during last season’s League match against Geylang United where Joseph’s two goals were instrumental to the team clinching the win that season. “We were losing 1-0 to Geylang at half time. At that point, we were at the top of table and needed the win to win the League. During half-time, Coach Philippe asked us, ‘How badly do you want to win?’” Joseph remembers being “fired up” by the coach’s pep talk and scoring a goal near the start of the second half. That fuelled the team morale further and by the end of the game, the team won 4-1. “When we won, the team was just great, everyone was cheering together and the energy in the team was just fantastic.”
Motivated to reach his potentials
As a newcomer in national football, Joseph has already been making his presence felt in the youth league and does not intend to stop. His current goal is to progress up to the Prime League. Being here has allowed him to be the high-striving individual he has always identified with. “You can’t just sit around because in that time you can be doing so much more… It is less relaxed here but it is a good thing because if I had just stayed in Australia I might not have come up to anything more.”
“I set really high standards for myself… I really want to progress and eventually be in professional football. I will do whatever it takes to get myself there.” This desire for excellence has been backed up by his stellar performance in his pursuit of a diploma in Sports Science and especially at Home United. It sure seems like this young, eager and talented player has all the right things to offer and we wish him the best.