Hariss: Singaporean players have potential, but need to step out of comfort zone
While Asia’s best have all flocked south to compete in the 2015 edition of the Asian Cup in Australia, Malaysian powerhouse Johor Darul Ta'zim FC took the liberty of doing something similar in the absence of their own national team, by taking a trip Down Under.
With Singapore having also missed out on qualification, the Lions' vice captain Hariss Harun took to the field for club rather than country as JDT took on Victorian National Premier League side Bentleigh Greens.
The 24-year-old spoke to FourFourTwo about how his plans for the upcoming Malaysia Super League, AFC Champions League and the impact he believes Singaporeans can make in Australia.
Now that you’re into your second season at JDT, do you feel as if you’re ready to play a bigger part in the club’s success in the league and in Asia as well?
Definitely, I mean not only this season but the moment I signed for JDT last year, I set myself [the goal] of doing my best for the team. That’s the reason why I joined the team; because I want to win trophies, I want to win titles and I want to keep on improving and I feel that this club has the ambition level at this stage to improve my game.
For this, in my second season, I feel more at home. I feel more comfortable around my teammates. We’re bonding, we’re gelling together as a team and of course we have the AFC Champions League knockout stage this season and I’m looking forward to it as it’s my debut. I haven’t played on a regional stage before and I’m looking forward to playing tougher teams. It can only improve us as players and as a team.
Is that the goal, earning qualification into the AFC Champions League group stages?
Why not? I mean if we play to our best, we’re a capable enough team to go as far as we can. We have to test ourselves. We never know how far we can go unless we challenge and test ourselves. For us, the target is to test ourselves to the limit.
How about Australia, how have you enjoyed the trip so far and what have you made of the competition and Bentleigh Greens in particular?
I think it was a very close game and Bentleigh showed us who’s boss in the first half. They were very physical, lots of movement, lots of strong direct running and they gave us problems. But as the game went on, we managed to adapt and we got used to the style. We had a couple of chances that we should have converted. If we did, we could’ve gone on to win it in the latter stages of the game. For us, we have to look at these parts of our game and try to improve. We’d rather make these mistakes now than when the real thing starts.
Do you believe Singaporean players can make the grade at this level?
Definitely, I think Singapore has a lot of potential, but we have to step out of our comfort zone. If we’re willing to step out of there, I think we can test ourselves more and like I said, just test ourselves. If we don’t test ourselves then we don’t know how far we can go.
National teammate Safuwan Baharudin is reportedly trialing with A-League side Melbourne City in Abu Dhabi. What do you think of his chances of making it in Australia?
I think he’s a very talented footballer, he’s one of our best players as well. He’s very capable and the A-League’s very physical so he’ll become a better player. He’ll be pushed around coming here because of his physique, he might find it a bit difficult but he’ll improve his physique and will be a better player for sure.
How would you personally like to test yourself at that level? Would you like to come up against an Australian team in the AFC Champions League?
Australians have a certain style of play, very physical, very direct and it’s challenge for us Singaporeans to come up against this style. Naturally we’re smaller in size to Australians and it’s just about how we adapt. We have to make up for it with our technique, our speed, our touch and playing the ball quicker. So it’s already made us better.
[Australia] has challenged us as a team to re-adapt to a different style each time we play different opposition, whether it be Japanese, Korean or Australian. It’s all a positive for us.