Push, curl, bend. The push-up is boring, the crunch is tedious, the squat is monotonous. No one is watching anyway, no peering TV camera, no cheering fan, so if you did one less, who cares? Push, curl, bend. No trainer is driving you, this is just you, at home, alone, so why not sleep? Push, curl, bend. You're injured, your body is being rebuilt through constant pain, and maybe it would be easier to just quit?
Push, curl, bend.
Footballer Hariss Harun is in his room. It is 2008 and his anterior cruciate ligament, crucial to the athlete's knee, has been reconstructed.
Twice a day he goes to rehab and this slow healing of the body, fibre by fibre, cell by cell, it's uninspiring and uninteresting and it hurts. Yet even after rehab, as night falls like a lonely curtain, he keeps going.
Push, curl, bend.
"I could have said two sessions (a day) was enough," says Hariss, "but I kept going at night till the body said stop. It brought the fighter out." Through the pain, and through this dull, repetitive, mindless routine that is training, he was discovering himself.
The footballer's life is often as drab as the coffee shop into which Hariss unassumingly slips. Former coach Raddy Avramovic once said "for his age and talent, there's no other player like him in Singapore", yet he sidesteps fanfare as neatly as he does a defender. His voice is as gentle as he is strong and he presents his view as matter of factly as an accountant might fill a ledger. "Staying motivated," he says can be the hardest thing.
The footballer's life is constantly imagined as an exotic adventure involving Ferraris in a stadium parking lot and models on speed dial.
Alas, not if your stadium is in Jalan Besar. Here life as a footballer is quieter. "We're not playing for big money," Hariss says and men like him, from less celebrated nations, keep football breathing. They do it for some money and a lot of love.