SINGAPORE - When the curtains came down on the Malaysian Super League (MSL) on Wednesday night, Hariss Harun was in Kuching, watching his side Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) from the sidelines.
The Singapore vice-captain was frustrated, unable to help his team in such a crucial game as he was nursing a hamstring injury.
JDT did secure the result they needed, though, beating Sarawak 1-0 on the night to wrest the MSL title, making Hariss a back-to-back championship winner.
It has been an eventful, sometime arduous, journey for the midfield star, who was a key figure when LionsXII stormed to the MSL title last season.
"Winning the title with the LionsXII in front of our own fans at the Jalan Besar Stadium (after a 4-0 win over Felda United) last year was special, partly because no one expected it of us," Hariss told The New Paper after JDT's win on Wednesday.
"But this, back-to-back titles, is a personal achievement, and I just want to keep achieving more."
Even though he left a developmental LionsXII side for big-spending JDT, a team with an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent, it hasn't been all smooth sailing for the 23-year-old.
"Everyone knows that I started the season on the bench, with rumours that I would be moving back to the LionsXII - that had a big impact on me," said Hariss, who had to battle with Argentinian magician Pablo Aimar, Luciano Figueroa and Singapore teammate Baihakki Khaizan for one of three foreign starting spots in the team.
This is a far cry from the years Hariss spent at the Courts Young Lions through to the LionsXII and then on to the national team, where his name has always been one of the first on the team sheet.
"It kept me on my toes, made me more competitive. I put in extra effort every time I stepped onto the field," said Hariss.
"I had to because I was playing in a good team, with good players, and even special players like Pablo."
It has been a learning journey off the field, as well.
Hariss remains the youngest footballer - at 16 years and 217 days - to don the national team shirt and could go on to become the face of Singapore football.
Looking back over what has transpired this year, he said: "I haven't moved far away from Singapore, and even though it's just across the Causeway, I've been able to keep a very low profile.
"Not many have asked me for interviews, and I haven't had to speak to many people, either.
A Better Player
"It suits me and I think it has made me a better person, a better player too, because I can concentrate on the things on the field.
"I have to be honest and say that I didn't play well initially, although it got better towards the later part of the season."
He is already looking to the future, for the next feather to put in his cap.
"I did get some criticism for leaving the LionsXII, but it's not that I didn't like playing for them. I've just got to keep moving forward," he said.
"I'm happy that things have gone well so far, but we have to keep moving, and that means recharging ourselves and looking to do well in the Malaysia Cup."
The Malaysia Cup kicks off in August, after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which starts on Sunday.
"After what we've been through, this league title is a big win for the players, staff and especially for the fans and the boss ( Johor crown prince, Ismail Idris), but I want to keep achieving more," said Hariss.
"There's more hard work ahead, but that's something I'm comfortable with, and have got even more comfortable with over these last few months."
This article was first published on June 27, 2014.
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