Hariss: Stronger S.League good for national team
Hariss feels national team will benefit from the spread of the LionsXII players to local clubs
The new year often brings about renewed challenges, and new peaks to climb.
For Singapore's midfield general Hariss Harun, 2016 will present those, as well as a chance to "set things right".
"(This year's Suzuki Cup) is very important to me because the last one was a big disappointment for us," said the 25-year-old Johor Darul Ta'zim I (JDT I) player on the sidelines of an event to launch enhanced facilities at Nanyang Polytechnic, his alma mater, on Wednesday.
"We went into the tournament as defending champions, but we left it in a very disappointing manner, and I think it's up to us to set things right this year."
The Lions, winners of the biennial Asean competition for a record fourth time before the 2014 edition, co-hosted the group stages with Vietnam that year, and exited the competition during the group stages after a 2-1 loss to eventual winners Thailand, and a 3-1 loss to arch-rivals Malaysia.
Speculation of unrest in the dressing room, as well as calls for national coach Bernd Stange's sacking surfaced in the aftermath of the Lions' exit on home ground.
While the expulsion of the LionsXII - who contribute the bulk of players to the national team - from Malaysian domestic competitions, and their eventual disbandment, have been shockers in the local football scene, Hariss believes that the Lions will not suffer the after-effects in their Suzuki Cup campaign.
Rather, the spread of former LionsXII players into the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League in the upcoming season may actually help boost the Lions.
"The LionsXII project was very good; when we won the Suzuki Cup in 2012, most of the players came from this centralised team," said Hariss, who became the first Singaporean to win the Asian Football Confederation Cup last year with JDT I.
"But, when we won it in 1998, 2004 and 2007, we were in the same situation as we are in now: most of the players came from the S.League.
"This season, the S.League will be more competitive with the (LionsXII) players spread out to the various teams... and, when it's more competitive, naturally there would be more players who will put themselves in contention for a national team call-up.
"If you have a strong league, you will have a competitive national team."
Hariss added that he is heartened with the renewed interest in the S.League and hopes that the interest will grow when the season starts next month.
The three-time winner of the MSL (2013-2015) said: "I hope the fans would come back and support the teams and the players.
"This can only have a spillover effect on the national team because the players who you follow week in, week out, are there in the national team."
In addition to his aspirations for the national team, the midfield dynamo is focused on getting his fitness back on track in pre-season - which started on Wednesday - for the new MSL season.
While he has won two league titles, an AFC Cup winners' medal, and a Malaysia Cup runners-up medal with the Southern Tigers, Hariss is hungry for more success, having signed a new two-year deal last November.
He said: "We want to defend the titles we won last year; it won't be easy in the MSL because a lot of teams have strengthened their squads, and it is not easy to defend a title in a competition as big as the AFC Cup.
"We also hope to qualify for the Asian Champions League (JDT I were knocked out in the preliminary stages last season); we have a play-off end of this month and I am looking forward to that."
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Veteran sports administrator appointed to Ethics Commission
She has been an athlete, a technical official, a president of a national sports association, and still holds other roles in the Singapore National Olympic Council, International Hockey Federation and the Olympic Council of Asia.
Now, veteran sports administrator Annabel Pennefather will have another feather to her cap.
Along with former South African judge Catherine O'Regan, the senior consultant at Withers KhattarWong was appointed to the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) Ethics Commission on a four-year term on Wednesday.
Pennefather said that a fellow lawyer alerted her to the opportunity, and encouraged the former Singapore Hockey Federation president to take up the role.
The appointments of both Pennefather and O'Regan were approved by IAAF president Sebastian Coe and the IAAF Council last month.
The Ethics Commission acts to safeguard the authenticity and integrity in athletics and investigates cases of misconduct and breaches of ethics in the sport.
The sport has been rocked by several scandals recently - Russia's state-sanctioned doping, corruption charges against former IAAF president Lamine Diack, as well as allegations of unethical behaviour against Coe's right-hand man Nick Davies.
In a statement announcing the appointment of its two new members, the Ethics Commission said: "The Ethics Commission welcomes these strong additions to its number at a time when the sport of athletics is facing particular challenges, and in the light of the Ethics Commission's important current and prospective work."
While she declined to comment on these cases due to "confidentiality" issues and the need to go through the chain of command, Pennefather, who is in her 60s, is up for the challenge.
She said: "If things need to change, and you're in a position to help, then you should be part of that change.
"There will be challenges ahead but, having been a sportswoman before, I shouldn't be scared of challenges.
"I will give my best and do all I can to fly the Singapore flag high, and hopefully make a difference."
She said not all nine members of the Ethics Commission, headed by Queen's Counsel Michael Beloff, are involved in every case that comes their way, and is awaiting instructions from Beloff.
In the meantime, Pennefather has been busy familiarising herself with the IAAF's Code of Ethics, and keeping abreast with developments in the sport.
She feels that her background in hockey, and not athletics, may be useful in her new role.
She said: "(This role) is about the application of a Code of Ethics, and not a technical role... and, coming from a different background, I may be able to offer different perspectives to a situation as well."
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Japan eye glory at HSBC World Rugby Sevens
Following World Cup upset of Springboks, Asian champs eye similar feat in S'pore event
Their 15s side made headlines at last year's Rugby World Cup in the United Kingdom, where they upset two-time world champions South Africa 34-32 in their first Pool B game.
This year, Japan are aiming for another major feat, this time in the Singapore leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens on April 16 and 17 at the National Stadium.
The Brave Blossoms, who join the tournament's 15 core teams as a wildcard side, are aiming for an unprecedented top-four finish in the Republic, following encouraging upsets in the first two legs of the 10-stop series.
In the opening leg in Dubai last month, the United States beat rugby giants New Zealand 14-12, and South Africa 21-19.
New Zealand, 12-time winners of the World Rugby Seven Series, also fell 24-12 and 22-19 to Canada and Argentina respectively in the following leg in Cape Town last month, before losing their last match 28-14 to the US.
BEAT THE BEST
Tomohiro Segawa, head coach of the Brave Blossoms, said: "At the Singapore Sevens, as Asia's representatives in an Asian country, we want to beat the top teams.
"Argentina were the runners-up at last month's Cape Town Sevens and Kenya finished among the top four, so we want to qualify for the Cup and our target is a top-four finish in Singapore.
"Following the success of our 15s side at the Rugby World Cup, now it's our turn to deliver the message about how good Japan rugby is to the world.
"We will play our Sevens rugby with pride, so that all Japanese who live overseas can be proud of us."
The Asian champions are bound for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, where Rugby Sevens will be making its debut in the quadrennial Games.
For the Singapore Sevens, Segawa has drafted in winger Yoshikazu Fujita, who scored a memorable try in the 28-18 win over the United States in Japan's last group game in England.
"Being Asia's only representatives in the World Sevens Series, Japan will definitely enjoy the support of many rugby fans and the Japanese expatriate community in Singapore," added Sam Chan, general manager of Rugby Singapore, the commercial arm of the Singapore Rugby Union.
"We also hope Japanese supporters across Asia will visit Singapore to support their rugby team.
"As host of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympics, I believe Japan will want to impress the world with their on-field performances."
Season pass prices range from $2 to $150, and family packages, which admit two adults and two children, are available at $405.
Fans can buy tickets and find more information at www.singapore7s.sg.