After AFC Cup success with JDT, Hariss sets higher targets
Hariss Harun wants to move up another level after AFC Cup win
He doesn't turn 25 until Nov 19.
Yet, national footballer Hariss Harun already has a trophy cabinet that will make his peers turn green with envy.
The midfielder won the Suzuki Cup in 2012, before clinching a hat-trick of Malaysian Super League crowns, first with the LionsXII in 2013, and then with Johor Darul Ta'zim in 2014 and this year.
On Saturday, he added the jewel in the crown by becoming the first Singaporean to win the AFC Cup, after JDT beat Tajikistan's Istiklol 1-0 at the Pamir Stadium in Dushanbe.
Before the final, Hariss told The New Paper of his ambition "to play at the highest level possible".
Now, his coach Mario Gomez is backing him to do just that.
In an exclusive interview with TNP, the 58-year-old Argentinian said: "Hariss is a very good player and he is one of the pillars of the team.
"He definitely has what it takes to play in a better league in Asia or in Europe. We would like to keep him with us, but it is natural for professional footballers to aim high.
"There is always room for improvement if you work hard and Hariss is doing just that."
Hariss, Singapore's youngest debutant at the age of 16 years and 217 days, had been key in JDT's run to becoming Asean's first AFC Cup winner.
He scored in an AFC Champions League qualifier against Bengaluru, before being eliminated by Bangkok Glass in the next round. He then played in 10 out of 11 games in the AFC Cup, missing only one through suspension.
With his two-year contract with JDT expiring at the end of the season, Hariss will soon be at the crossroads - does he continue with an ambitious club he has experienced success with or venture into the unknown in a higher-quality league?
TNP understands that the Football Association of Singapore is likely to send Hariss, LionsXII goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud and utility player Safuwan Baharudin for J.League trials next month.
But Hariss insisted he is at peace with himself, and that he will maintain the same work ethics that have taken him this far.
"Winning the AFC Cup means a lot, I never thought of this at the start of the season and neither did the team, but it is really God-given for us," he said.
"We were very well aware of the danger Istiklol would pose, so we played a tight game to limit them as much as possible. But, at the same time, we had good ball players you could keep the ball and pose danger for them and we were confident.
"Overall, we did well when we had the ball and everyone did his part defensively.
"We were knocked out in the AFC Champions League qualifiers and doing better in that competition next year will definitely be a target because that competition is of a higher level.
"I am really grateful and I'm humbled by this victory. It is the biggest because it is at an Asian level.
"But nothing changes, there is still a lot of hard work I need to put in to get to the next level and I want to build on this."