The two weeks of the inaugural University World Cup – Football in Jinjiang, China, produced many great matches and edge-of-the-seat moments. Over the fortnight from 21 November to 1 December, one of the most compelling sights on the field was the No.9 jersey and the streak of red hair from University of Wollongong; a dynamo in motion, constantly moving, relentlessly attacking the opposition goal.
University of Wollongong striker Marcus Beattie won the golden boot in China, with six goals in six games. Beattie also scored in the grand final on 1 December, although it was not enough for his Wollongong side to seal the win over University of the Republic from Uruguay.
Marcus Beattie in action in the semifinal vs Autonomous University of Mexico StateNow that the dust has settled and the sting of losing the final has eased, the twenty-three-year-old looks back on the tournament with contentment.
“It was honestly amazing, one of the best experiences of my life so far,” Marcus Beattie says to FISU. “At first, we kind of didn’t know what to expect, from the other teams and also from China as a whole. But it was such a good experience, with the people being so friendly and kind and the city being really interesting to go out exploring.”
“Obviously the football with the facilities, the standard of play and the coverage of the event – all of that was amazing. Just a crazy good two weeks to be involved in and something I’ll always remember.”
The tournament will remember him too, as his name went into the history books as top scorer of the first ever edition. That’s not going to be forgotten in a hurry. But Beattie credits his team for his individual performance.
“For me personally, the best thing was how our team went on the field!” says Beattie. “To go on a run like we did, making the World Cup Final in front of a packed house in a new stadium, it was amazing. Obviously, the result in the final didn’t go our way, but I feel we not only showed how good our team is, but also how Australian football is.”
Interestingly enough, one of the highlights of the trip for him was the last night in Jinjiang, when many of the teams went out together. “It’s so incredible that after a really competitive two weeks of football, teams from all over the world could come together like that and celebrate how hard we had all worked to get there.”
“It was good to blow off some steam after a busy schedule and enjoy the experience with people from completely different backgrounds,” he reveals. “I was also interested to see the Chinese nightlife, so it was a very enjoyable night out.”
University of Wollongong won the Australian nationals to qualify for the FISU University World Cup world finalsSo, what’s next for Marcus Beattie?
“Firstly, to finish my degree within the next year,” says the Nutrition Science student. “Then in terms of football, the plan is just to continuously keep working hard every single day and hope that an opportunity to play football full time comes up.”
“The main thing I can control is working harder than ever before,” he says of his future. “And just continually getting better. The experience at this competition has definitely given me massive confidence about my ability and this can help as motivation to keep improving.”
At the same time as having big dreams and plans on the football field, Beattie keeps his head firmly on his shoulders when it comes to his academics.
“Getting my degree is very important to me!” he says. “I’ve been able to balance my life enough to ensure I’ve done well in my degree while also becoming a better footballer. I want to ensure I’ve got something to bounce back on if football doesn’t work out.”
“My parents always told me to get a good education to ensure it sets me up for later in life, so I’m glad to have got that advice from a young age.”
Sport has also always been a companion since a young age, he tells us. Growing up in Australia, it was quite natural for him and his twin brother Joel, to play just about every possible sport.
“I was massively into cricket while growing up, so I always tried to balance football and cricket seasons before my love for football just took over.”
“I still love the opportunity to play a game of cricket with my mates,” he laughs. “But the focus remains on football and getting better.”
The Beattie twins enjoying the moment Beattie’s initiation into football happened at the age of four or five, as a result of his elder brother playing for the local club. It was not until his teens however, that he realised that he wanted to play at a serious level.
“It was only when I got older, during my teenage years, that the competitiveness and ambition in my personality really came out,” Beattie explains how he realised football was going to be serious for him. “That allowed me to get better and brought me to where I am today. I’ve still got a long way to go in terms of improving my game, but I feel like I’m getting closer to where I want to be.”
“I’m a massive Liverpool fan so my favourite player right now is Roberto Firmino,” adds Beattie at the end of the conversation. “His work rate and class as a footballer is next level and he truly leads the reds in every single game. I love how unselfish he is, bringing the other boys into the game. He’s just quality to watch.”
We hope Beattie realises that exactly the same could be said for him in Jinjiang.