Hariss rejects Portugal move

Hariss rejects Portugal move

SINGAPORE - He broke into the national team at 16 years and 217 days old, pipping Fandi Ahmad to become Singapore's youngest international footballer.

Touted as a midfield general in the making, he said at the time that his dream was to play professional football in Europe.

Years passed, and Hariss Harun became stronger and stronger, both in terms of his play and in his physical development.

He became captain of the Under-23s, and vice-captain of the LionsXII and the national team.

But he continued to ply his trade in Singapore.

Six years on, his big chance finally arrived.

Last month, Rio Ave, who narrowly missed out on a place in the Europa League after finishing sixth in Portugal's top flight last season, offered a contract to the 22-year-old midfielder.

In a stunning turn, Hariss turned them down.

Hariss, who was part of the LionsXII team that lifted the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title this year, felt he just could not accept the deal. He was cryptic when explaining to The New Paper why the deal fell through.

"It's a mutual thing... They put certain options to me and I guess it just didn't happen," he said. "I had discussed my future with my family throughout the last month and we felt it just wasn't right."

Multiple factors

Hariss added there were a lot of factors he had to consider, but refused to say what they were.

"It was a difficult decision for me," he said. "I mean, it's my boyhood dream to play in Europe.

"I wouldn't just suddenly say, 'I don't feel like it' right?

"But there are reasons and complications and it wasn't so straightforward."

One factor could have been his National Service (NS) commitment.

Hariss, a full-time NSman in the police force, will complete his stint on Friday.

But Rio Ave wanted him to link up with the team last month.

It is believed the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), who worked with Jorge Mendes, one of football's top agents, to create the opportunity for Hariss, had vowed to help the player over the schedule.

But the lack of certainty made Hariss uncomfortable.

The pay offered by Rio Ave could also have been a factor.

Apart from the big three of Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon, most other Portuguese clubs suffered huge financial problems last season.

Footballers in the Portugal's top division reportedly earn, on average, between 2,000 and 3,000 euros ($3,400 and $5,000) a month.

The figure pales in comparison to the $16,000-a-month contracts Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan landed when they signed for the Medan Chiefs in the Indonesian Premier League in 2011.

LionsXII captain Shahril is believed to command a five-figure salary per month.

There was talk recently linking Hariss with a potentially lucrative move across the Causeway to join MSL club Johor Darul Takzim.

Hariss, however, does not want to think too far ahead. He wants to focus on the national team's Asian Cup qualifier against Oman on Aug 14, and the LionsXII's Malaysia Cup campaign, which kicks off a week later.

He will then lead the U-23 team's charge for gold at the SEA Games, which will be held in Myanmar from Dec 11 to 22.

But he still harbours dreams of following in the footsteps of Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy by playing in Europe.

Said Hariss: "God willing, in the future, if another offer comes my way, I'll definitely consider it and think it through thoroughly."

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