Hariss looking forward to another Causeway Derby
Singapore midfield star acknowledges players owe fans their best showing
He won his first international cap almost a decade ago at the age of 16, and it is no surprise Hariss Harun already has a few unforgettable moments when it comes to tales of clashes between Singapore and Malaysia.
The first happy memory for the Singapore star, though, is turning out for the Singapore Under-16s when they beat their Malaysian counterparts 2-0 in the final of the 21st Lion City Cup.
Hariss also looks back fondly on a 3-0 triumph nearly four years ago at a hostile Bukit Jalil Stadium, setting the Lions on their way to becoming South-east Asian champions for a record fourth time.
On paper, there is nothing at stake when the two countries lock horns in the Causeway Challenge 2016 at the National Stadium on Oct 7.
But any Singapore-Malaysia football match is special to both sets of fans, and with the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup looming, Hariss knows the importance of the game.
"It's always special playing against Malaysia… What more motivation do you need than playing against your traditional rivals?" Hariss told The New Paper at his home in Punggol yesterday.
"Whether it's a World Cup qualifier, the Suzuki Cup or just a friendly, this derby is one which both sides won't want to lose.
"There's pride and bragging rights at stake but, also, it's part of our preparations for an important tournament with the Suzuki Cup coming up.
"It's good to have such games to know which areas we need to improve on and gives us the opportunity to work on it.
"My hope is for us to peak at the right moment, not too early and not too late, and hopefully we'll have a good tournament."
Hariss is fresh off the back of helping his club Johor Darul Ta'zim clinch a third consecutive Malaysian Super League title - his fourth, including the triumph with the LionsXII in 2013.
He will be no stranger to the opponents in a week's time, but the 25-year-old has no qualms setting aside friendship for 90 minutes.
With a chuckle, Hariss revealed: "(Malaysia captain) Amri Yahyah actually sits right next to me in the (JDT) dressing room.
"I have a good rapport with these guys but, when it comes to the pitch, it is purely business.
"We don't go out there to hurt anyone on purpose, but if you have to kick someone to help your own team... At the end of the day, we have a job to do and so do they."
It has been two years now since the opening of the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub, which has yet to witness a sellout for a Singapore game, despite hosting the 2014 Suzuki Cup and 2015 SEA Games.
Despite the non-competitive nature of next Friday's match, Hariss is hoping for a large turnout to give the Lions as much of a home advantage as possible.
"Whenever we play Malaysia at Bukit Jalil, their fans always make so much noise and it's never easy to play there," he said.
"What better way for us to welcome our Malaysian counterparts than with a similar atmosphere next week.
"Now that we have a home of our own, we really have to make it the Lions' den.
"As players, we have a duty to fulfil for the fans and I understand the frustration when we don't perform as expected.
"What I really hope for is that the fans continue to give us their never-ending support and I really hope to see a good crowd when we play our traditional rivals on the stage that is the National Stadium."
It’s always special playing against Malaysia… What more motivation do you need than playing against your traditional rivals?
— Hariss Harun