National football ace Hariss Harun is settling down just fine in Spain.
Even before he has had an official training session with third-tier Spanish side CE L'Hospitalet - where he is on loan from Malaysian team Johor Darul Ta'zim - the 26-year-old midfielder has been embraced by the Catalan club's fans.
A group of supporters spotted him in the stands during L'Hospitalet's 1-0 win over Atletico Saguntino at their 6,700-seater Estadi La Feixa Llarga yesterday, and beckoned for him to meet them.
"There are two tiers of the stands, and I was upstairs so that I could have a better view," Hariss told The New Paper over the phone yesterday.
"A group of fans saw me and called out my name, and asked me to go down.
"They shook hands and took pictures with me, and asked me if I would play next week... They seemed very excited.
"At half-time, the club's media team interviewed me about how I'm settling here, too."
Hariss has not trained with his new teammates yet.
Since his arrival on Thursday, he has been doing work in the gym to keep himself fit, as the team prepared for yesterday's game.
He will have his first session with the team today.
Hariss is unsure if his work permit application will be approved before L'Hospitalet's next game on Sunday, with the team having to travel some 500km south to Alicante to take on Hercules.
But the midfielder is looking forward to getting his chance to strut his stuff in front of his new club's fans.
"The stadium was not full, but there was a good atmosphere," said Hariss, who has 71 caps for Singapore.
"Most of them are men, and they are very passionate. They were standing throughout the whole match, shouting and encouraging the team.
"It was as though they wanted to jump onto the pitch to help the team themselves!
"The level of play is not too bad either. It's quite physical, and L'Hospitalet play some decent football... I think it'll be good for me."
Since he has had some downtime over the past four days, Hariss has scoured Catalonia in search of halal eating places.
In addition to Turkish and Indian cuisines, he also found a Malaysian restaurant which sells fare such as keropok ubi kayu (cassava crackers), bubor cha cha (a Nonya dessert) and fried rice.
While food does not seem to be a problem for Hariss, language is still a stumbling block.
"I can understand a few words but, once the locals start talking, I cannot follow at all," he said with a chuckle.
"I had an encounter the other day with a parking attendant who could not speak English, and I had to take out my phone and use a translation app to communicate with him.
"It's still early days... but I'm doing okay and I hope I can do well in training tomorrow as well."
This article was first published on February 27, 2017.
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