Student Sport Insight #13 – Simon Jakab

In episode #13 of the Student Sport Insights, we spoke with Simon Jakab, a talented football player who arrived from Hungary in 2017 to further his education and continue his promising playing career.

Simon embarked on his educational journey at the University of Sunderland, located in the North East of England, where he pursued and successfully earned a Bachelor of Science in Sports and Exercise Sciences, followed by a Master of Science in Psychology.

Alongside his academic accomplishments, Simon excelled on the football pitch. From representing his university team to earning a spot on the prestigious English Universities Sport squad, the gifted defender is now making his mark in the Northern Premier League East Division, the eighth tier of English football.

Find out about some of the different playing opportunities that were available to Simon as a student-athlete in the UK in our interview below.

Student Profile

Name: Simon Jakab

Nationality: Hungarian

Institution: University of Sunderland

Degree(s): BSc Sports and Exercise Sciences and MSc Psychology

Could you briefly inform us of your background before moving to the UK in July 2017?

I had been playing football in Hungary at an academy level, which came to an end once I decided to move to the UK. I played for a team called UTE, where we were training five times a week and playing games on a Saturday.

At this stage, I was still attending my High School, which I continued to do after moving to the UK with a dual student learning agreement.”

Was sport an important factor when it came to selecting the University of Sunderland?

I chose the University of Sunderland because the foundation degree I attended allowed me to partake in the NFYL (National Football Youth League) fixtures with the Foundation of Light’ Scholarship team, which I have been a part of after moving to the UK.

I wasn’t quite aware of the BUCS leagues or the university team in general, but it turned out to be a brilliant decision!”

During your time at the University of Sunderland had the opportunity to represent English Universities Sport. How did this opportunity come about?

It was a great honour to be called up to represent my country of study at such a high level.

I remember I was quite nervous while waiting for the news to find out if I was selected or not. Luckily, I got the call from the head coach. I was actually in the middle of a lecture so I quickly ran out to answer it.

I got the chance to represent my country of study against a number of professional clubs, which was an unbelievable feeling. Probably the most outstanding memory was a game against Burnley FC, where I was just coming back from a long-term injury. To actually beat a Premier League Academy set up made that match even more special.

Thinking back, it was an unbelievable experience to travel to Leeds for the trials and to play at St George’s Park representing the North.

My parents flew over from Hungary for this occasion, and it was one of the proudest moments of my football career, as I was selected man of the match that day by the coaching staff.

I’d always said that playing for my university felt prestigious to me, so you can imagine my pride when I put the England shirt on.”

Reflecting on your four years of playing football for the University of Sunderland, how did playing sport impact your university experience?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to have 4 full years of competing for the university. COVID-19 and a few injuries during my last season reduced the opportunity to complete many full seasons, but even so, football was probably one of the most important parts of my studies. The football team is where you make your closest friends, who will remain with you once you have graduated.

Playing high level sport also gave me the opportunity to be selected as an elite athlete for Team Sunderland. That was a massive part of my university experience as it helped physically and financially while studying in Sunderland.

Overall, it made my university experience quite special and unforgettable.”

What helpful tips do you have for international students who want to pursue sports in university, and could you also tell us about your own experiences and achievements after graduating?

I would highly recommend joining a sport team! This is one of the best ways to find like-minded people and make friends at the start of your university journey.

After finishing my master’s, I was offered a full time role at the Beacon of Light (Foundation of Light). I have been working there part-time ever since the start of my studies, and now that I am not in full-time education anymore, they offered me a duty manager role, which I am very pleased with. I have also signed for Ashington AFC in the Northern Premier League East Division.”

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