Double honours raise Hariss' stock in region

Hariss Harun (left) tussling with Japan's Tomoaki Makino during the 0-0 World Cup qualifier draw in Saitama in June. The Singapore vice-captain expects his side to keep up their good form against Syria.
Hariss Harun (left) tussling with Japan's Tomoaki Makino during the 0-0 World Cup qualifier draw in Saitama in June. The Singapore vice-captain expects his side to keep up their good form against Syria.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Two years ago, Hariss Harun had the chance to compete in Europe but he spurned the advances of Portuguese top-tier side Rio Ave.

Today, Singapore's national vice-captain has gone strength to strength in this region, earning individual as well as team accolades.

On Saturday, the 24-year-old clinched his third MSL title in a row when his current club Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) were crowned Malaysia Super League (MSL) champions for a second season in a row.

In 2013, Hariss was an integral part of a LionsXII side who also won the MSL.

To sweeten his day, he was also named among the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Best XI at the AFF Awards Ceremony in Yangon.

He was the only Singaporean to feature in the line-up, which included six players from AFF Suzuki Cup champions Thailand.

HAPPY WITH TITLES

It is a great feeling to win a third straight (MSL ) title. I moved to JDT to win titles and I am happy that it is working out the way I wanted it to.

HARISS HARUN Singapore footballer on winning the Malaysia Super League title with Johor Darul Takzim

Speaking to The Straits Times before he flew off with the rest of the Singapore squad to Doha for a friendly with Qatar, Hariss reflected on what has already been a successful year thus far.

"It is a great feeling to win a third straight title and honestly I feel very lucky," he said. "I moved to JDT to win titles and I am happy that it is working out the way I wanted it to.

"Right now, I want to aim higher because we are still in the AFC Cup.

"As for being named in the AFF Best XI, I am very happy with that. I would have loved to have more Singaporeans in the team, but we had a difficult AFF Suzuki Cup campaign last December."

The latest league victory is also sweeter for Hariss as he was given a starring role in the JDT team, in stark contrast to last time when his playing time was limited with star Argentinian midfielder Pablo Aimar vying for the same central midfield position as him.

Hariss, who captained the Singapore national team to the memorable 0-0 draw with Japan in the Lions' last outing, is hoping for a good result against Syria in their 2018 World Cup qualifier in Muscat, Oman, on Sept 3.

He said: "Morale is high after the first two matches and we must take each game as it comes. It is important that we can get at least a point from the Syria game."

Hariss, who is in talks with JDT over an extension of his two-year contract, which ends at the end of this year, also revealed his personal ambitions.

"Europe is still the biggest target," he said.

"I don't regret having turned down a move to Europe back then. The time was not right and I am happy to be winning titles where I am."

Deepanraj Ganesan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2015, with the headline 'Double honours raise Hariss' stock in region'. Print Edition | Subscribe