Hariss: Re-signing with JDT shows my ambition, not lack of it

Singapore international Hariss Harun has signed a new two-year extension with Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) despite being tipped for bigger things. But he tells Vijhay Vick he can ask for no better platform than at the Southern Tigers to show his talents at the moment...

After making his international debut at the age of just 16, Hariss Harun always appeared destined to stamp his mark on Asian football. The commanding 25-year-old holding midfielder has since established himself as a key player for club and country.

With Malaysian football – sans JDT – on a downward spiral, Hariss could have been forgiven for bolting at the first opportunity. After all, many believe the midfielder has the mettle to play in Europe or in a top Asian league. At the very least, Hariss seems worthy of a place in the Thai Premier League – arguably the region’s best.

Instead, Hariss opted for a deal that has made him the highest paid Singaporean footballer with a reported salary of US$30,000 (RM130,000) per month.

Having been linked to a J-League trial, there were suggestions his stay with the 2014 AFC Cup champions was motivated by money and that he lacked ambition. FourFourTwo instead discovered that while Hariss still harbours hopes of playing further away from the Causeway, he feels JDT and Malaysian football are on the rise.

“I had no other concrete offers. There were talks of Japan but I knew very little of it. I was pleased JDT wanted to retain my services and seeing the club’s ambition, it was the right place to be,” Hariss said.

“What the future holds beyond this extension is something we’ll have to wait and see. I’m always trying to improve myself … to take the next step. In terms of having a continental platform to play in, JDT offers me just that.

“I’m very happy how things have evolved at JDT. The club is very ambitious and provides a good environment for footballers. We have already won the AFC Cup … we need to push ourselves more and hopefully get into the AFC Champions League next year.”

Hariss last appeared in Singapore's 3-0 loss to Japan in November

Hariss also believes JDT’s success in the AFC Cup and back-to-back Malaysia Super League (MSL) titles could turn out to be the catalysts for a Malaysian football revival.

“Look, the AFC Cup win was the first for Southeast Asia. Other teams from the regions may feel that if JDT could do it, so can they,” he said.

“I reckon the MSL teams will also strive to improve because of this. Our success could spur other teams to challenge us. It will only make everyone put in more effort so they could be on par. I reckon they wouldn’t want to be left behind too. This will improve MSL’s quality as well.”

On the international front, Hariss feels the Lions are capable of reaching the World Cup qualifying final round but it is vital they move on from the 3-0 defeat to Japan at the Singapore Sports Hub on Thursday.

Next up they face Syria, a team that has played one game less than Singapore. But that match is away against undefeated Japan, who have not conceded a single goal in qualifying yet, so the odds for Singapore being among Asia's 12 best teams will increase significantly if they win on Tuesday.

“The second place is up for grabs. We have to move on from the Japan game and take it as a learning curve on how to play at a higher level. Syria is big game. We are at home … so we must collect points,” Hariss said

“I think we stand a good chance against the Syrians. In the earlier match, we played very well … hitting the post and such a few times. One moment of lapse in concentration and we ended up losing 1-0.”

A win against Syria will propel the Lions into second place in Group E. The Samurai Blue lead the group on 15 points, followed by Syria (12), Singapore (10), Afghanistan (six) and Cambodia (nil).