- Justin Grimm
Erdene-Ochir Mungunbagana: Mongolia's Next Star Striker
Remember the name Erdene-Ochir Mungunbagana. The Arvis FC striker is one of the top prospects of a strong crop of talented youngsters that will make up the Blue Wolves squad in the near future. At age 18, he has already won more awards for scoring than most players could ever dream of in an entire career. Let's hear his story.
Mungunbagana, nicknamed "Munguu," was born on 1 January 1999 in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. The striker's football career started like many others, playing for his school team beginning at age 9. He attributes much of his skill to his earliest coaches Banzragch and Jargalsaikhan who he humbly gives much of the credit for his development. Although how he started playing football was typical, his performances quickly became anything but.
The player joined Arvis FC at age 11 in 2010, the first year of the club's existence. He has proven to be a faithful and dedicated member of the squad, featuring for both its football and futsal sections ever since.
At Arvis he quickly distinguished himself, winning the team's Best Player Award in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015. During the 2015 season, Arvis FC began competing in the newly-formed 1st League, the second tier of Mongolian football. He has also won the league top scorer awards for the under-15 category in 2013 and under-17 category in 2015. Those are just a few of the numerous awards he has won in both cup and league competitions.
Mungunbagana's success has caused the Mongolian Football Federation to take notice. Currently he has represented his country fives times at the youth level. He received his first call up to the national under-13 team in 2011. He was recalled again in 2012 to take part in the team's activity in Beijing, China. The same year he represented the under-15 team three times in Russia. 2017 saw Mungunbagana called to represent the under-20 squad in Russia during a training camp in preparation for 2018 AFC U-19 Championship qualification. However, he was unable to attend because of his studies.
Both Arvis FC and the player had their biggest seasons to date during the 2017 season. The club finished the season as champions of the Khurkhree 1st League and earned promotion to the Mongolian Premier League for the first time for the 2018 season. Mungunbagana took home individual honours, winning the Golden Boot Award with 17 goals. Adding to the remarkable feat is that he played in only 13 of the team's matches after missing the last five matches of the season to travel to Russia.
Russia: that takes Mungunbagana to the next phase of his footballing journey. He traveled to Russia because he is now studying at Irkutsk State University in Siberia. There he is playing for the university team and waiting to make contact with the local club. The biggest club in the city is FC Zenit Irkutsk which competes in the Russian Professional Football League, Russia's fully-professional third tier. Earlier this year, Ulaanbaatar City FC's president Dashnyam formed a partnership with the club. This partnership may benefit Mungunbagana as the club is already connected to Mongolian football.
Although he is with a university team and not a club, he is currently only the second known Mongolian playing regularly for a team outside of Mongolia; the other is Ganbold Ganbayar who has made headlines during his time with Puskás Akadémia FC in Hungary.
In a way, Mungunbagana has already fulfilled his dream of playing in other countries. However, he is aiming higher and wants to one day play in England, France, or Spain. Despite this Arvis FC fans should not despair, the player fully expects to be back with the club for the 2018 Mongolian Premier League season.
Mongolian Football Central wishes Mungunbagana best of luck. We will be watching his career closely with much interest.
Complete List of Awards
*2011 - Han-Uul Cup: best striker (17 goals)
*2011 - Arvis FC Best Player Award
*2012 - Duulian 2020: Under-13 best striker (64 goals)
*2012 - Deren Cup: best player (10 goals)
*2012 - Arvis FC Best Player Award
*2013 - U-15 League best striker (15 goals)
*2013 - Arvis FC Best Player Award
*2014 - National U-15 Cup: best striker (14 goals)
*2015 - Chinese Cup: best striker (14 goals)
*2015 - Deren Cup: best striker (16 goals)
*2015 - National U-17 Cup: best striker (19goals)
*2015 - Arvis FC Best Player Award
*2017 - Khurkhree 1st League Golden Boot (17goals)
*2017 - Khurkhree 1st League Champion
Some of Mungunbagana's Awards