Hariss Harun eyes AFF Suzuki Cup glory
Skipper urges Lions to make most of home advantage during Dec 5-Jan 1 tourney
There is a certain lightness to Hariss Harun these days, and gratitude is a big reason for this.
A month before he turns 31, and having amassed over 100 caps with the national team and winners' medals in the AFC Cup, AFF Suzuki Cup and Malaysia Super League, the Lions skipper is finally able to call himself a champion of his own domestic league.
In a chat with The Straits Times, Hariss shares why lifting the Singapore Premier League (SPL) title on Oct 10 with the Lion City Sailors holds a deeper meaning.
"It is special to me," the midfielder explains, "because when I was a young boy, I watched the club win our last league title in 2003, and since then, I've always wanted to do that myself.
"Winning those (seven) titles in Malaysia was special too, but as a Singaporean, this is sweet."
Hariss' affiliation with the now-privatised Sailors goes back a long way - he was a youth trainee with them from 2001 to 2003, when they were known as Home United.
Returning to his boyhood club in May on a 3½-year deal from Malaysian giants Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) was a "no brainer", he says, especially since it gives him the chance to spend more time with his young family - he is father to two boys Naufal (six) and Nabil (one), and daughter Nadine (four).
The Sailors' long-term goal of establishing themselves as one of Asia's top clubs is also a project that Hariss is thrilled to be a part of.
But next on his radar is the Dec 5-Jan 1 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.
He is using the short break before the tournament to recuperate from a quadriceps injury he picked up on the final day of the SPL season - he expects to be back in full training in four weeks - and also sit exams as he pursues a degree in business and marketing from Coventry University, offered by the PSB Academy.
Hariss' tone shifts from light to resolute as the topic of conversation moves to the Suzuki Cup, as he talks about his desire to win silverware with the Lions - their last win in the South-east Asian tournament was in 2012 - before he retires from international football.
It almost sounds as though he is delivering a team talk in the dressing room, as he shares how the players have to leverage home advantage better than they did in 2014, the last time Singapore co-hosted the competition.
They exited in the group stage then after conceding two late goals against arch-rivals Malaysia, and Hariss admits that the team were "a bit naive".
"Sadly, ever since then, we've been in transition for way too long," he adds.
There have been signs of a resurgence. Under Tatsuma Yoshida, who has been coach since 2019, the Lions have beaten higher-ranked Middle Eastern sides Yemen and Palestine in competitive games.
Hariss says: "Hopefully, this time things are a little bit more settled, we can learn from (previous) campaigns and do better.
"If we find our groove early, I think we are in for a good tournament."
"Hopefully... we can learn from (previous) campaigns and do better. If we find our groove early, I think we are in for a good tournament."
- Singapore captain Hariss Harun on the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup