National Team - Lions ● Nov 15, 2019

Model pro Hariss Harun reaches 100 caps for Singapore

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DOHA, 15 NOVEMBER 2019 – In June 2007, a 16-year-old Hariss Harun became Singapore’s youngest ever international footballer when he came on as a substitute against DPR Korea at the old National Stadium.

Last night, Hariss became the Lions’ newest centurion when he led the team out against Qatar in an international friendly at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.

It was a deserved milestone for one of the finest that Singapore has ever produced – one he would have reached earlier had it not been for serious injuries in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Hariss’ achievement meant he became the 13th member of an exalted list – Daniel Bennett (142 caps), Shahril Ishak (138), Baihakki Khaizan (137), Khairul Amri (132), Malek Awab (121), Aide Iskandar (120), S. Subramani (115), Indra Sahdan (113), David Lee (105), Samad Allapitchay (105), Nazri Nasir (104), Fandi Ahmad (100) – and he described it as a huge honour.

“It’s a really, really big honour to be amongst these names,” he told FAS.org.sg after the game. “It’s a really proud moment for me and my family, especially my dad, he’s been there since I was young and at most of my games, and my mum as well, so for my parents this is a really proud moment and I am just happy to live my dream, which is to play for the national team.

“When you know that century mark is coming, it’s something that hit me when I am alone in my room but when I am with the team and in training and in games, I am 100 per cent focused on those. Today, it was likewise; it’s a special moment for me but what was important was the game and doing our best and preparing for our World Cup qualifier (against Yemen next).”

National Team Coach Tatsuma Yoshida was in no doubt about the magnitude of the latest feather in Hariss’ cap.

“This is a big, big, big achievement and I want to say a big ‘congratulations’ to Hariss,” he said. “His effort, ability and self-discipline have been key to him getting 100 caps. He has a very good attitude and he has just kept on going. It’s very difficult because sometimes, young players want to do other things but he has focused on himself and his career.”

The Japanese, who took over the reins earlier this year, further lauded his captain: “There are many different captaincy styles – some rely on good attitude and ability, some on great leadership. But Hariss has everything; he is complete.”
DESTINED
The midfield dynamo’s potential was evident from a young age. Hariss won the Most Valuable Player awards at both the 2005 and 2006 editions of the Lion City Cup, and his talent saw then-national team head coach Raddy Avramovic insist to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) that the rule stipulating players had to be at least 18 to play in the league and national team be abolished.

Hariss went on to make his professional debut with the Young Lions in 2017 at 16 years and 110 days, before Raddy gave him his first cap 107 days later. Hariss’ record of being the Singapore Premier League’s youngest player stood until last year when it was eclipsed by Zikos Chua, while the latter one still stands; he surpassed Fandi Ahmad’s mark of 17 years and 115 days.

He recalled: “When I started out, all I wanted to do was to play for the team and put on the national team jersey and do my best. I was surprised but also proud to achieve that moment at a very young age. To think that it’s been over 12 years now (is remarkable) – time really flies! But I am really grateful to be able to reach 100 caps.”

Raddy told The Straits Times: “Hariss has shown great attitude and determination, especially at the beginning of his international career when he was unlucky to suffer injuries. But his strong mentality helped him become one of the best players in Southeast Asia. (He) is a good example of how one develops in sports from local to international level, and also from a youngster to become a responsible and respectable family man. He is a great model for young Singaporean kids.”
TOP PRO
Indeed, many players in the national age-group teams often cite Hariss as their inspiration and role model. The Johor Darul Ta’zim captain, who has won every Malaysian domestic trophy available and also led them to the 2015 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup, has a reputation for being a top professional on and off the field.

National Under-22 midfielder Jacob Mahler worked alongside his idol when handed his maiden senior call-up last year and recalled: “There are a lot of values I admire that Hariss possesses – discipline, leadership, dedication, humility, to name a few – and I have learned (so much) from him during the short time I spent with him in the national team. He is such a professional in the way he trains, eats and rests and that is reflected in how he performs in matches and plays for one of the best teams in Asia. Despite all his achievements, he is so humble and approachable, and I was lucky enough to partner him in midfield for my international debut; he guided me before and throughout the game, which was an honour.”

Jacob added: “Seeing him reach his 100th cap for Singapore definitely inspires me to achieve this milestone and it motivates me to work harder and hopefully, one day I will be able to achieve what Hariss has in his incredible career.”

National team manager Eric Ong, who served as the team’s media officer when Hariss was first called up over 12 years ago, likened him to legendary Internazionale and Argentina captain Javier Zanetti, saying: “From the day I first knew Hariss, he’s been reliable, inspirational and a model professional.”
The newly-minted centurion was presented with a commemorative jersey by two others after the team’s dinner back at the hotel – Baihakki and Nazri, who is now the team’s assistant coach.

Baihakki said: “In terms of his personality, attitude and professionalism, there’s no difference between the Hariss of today and the Hariss when he was 16. He hasn’t changed one bit; he works so hard consistently that success chases him instead.”

Team-mate Safuwan Baharudin, who is five caps away from reaching 100 himself, echoed those sentiments.

“I think he’s been tremendous in terms of leadership and his commitment towards the national team,” he said. “His discipline is one of his greatest assets and also his dedication, perseverance and how he always motivates and encourages his team-mates. There are so many great players who have worn a Singapore jersey… he (Hariss) is the complete package as a player. I rank him as one of the best Singapore has ever produced because he has that charisma that no one does.”

MORE TO COME
Only four days away from turning 29, there is still plenty of time left for Hariss to continue breaking records and achieve more. Indeed, Tatsuma believes that the midfielder could stick around for a while more yet.

“He can still keep going,” he said. “His career should not stop at this point. I hope that it gets better and I want to watch him do that… he has the ability and he should trust himself, his team-mates and coaches. He must enjoy his career. His attitude and physical condition is very good; he might be able to play on for five or seven more years, maybe even until 40! He just needs to take it day by day.”

Hariss is not ready to think that far ahead yet, but asserted that he is hungry for more.

“Football is a career that is really fast and short and you need to make the best of the opportunities you have, and treasure every minute of training and games,” he said. “Being a national team and professional player, you can get tired mentally but i think it’s about how you take care of yourself and enjoy it and get yourself ready for each training and game; it’s something I will not stop (doing).

“It doesn’t stop here. Success with the national team is something I’m looking forward to. We have a lot of work to do but I think we are headed in the right direction; we have to keep believing and keep working hard.

“I really enjoy what I’m doing now; it’s a pleasure to make your passion your work, so that’s something I don’t want to take for granted. As long as I can contribute to Singapore football and play regularly at the highest level, I will do my best and be there for the national team as long as they need me.”