S'pore U-23 captain Hariss targets SEA Games gold

SINGAPORE - This will be his fourth and final South-east Asia (SEA) Games football tournament.

And team captain Hariss Harun is desperate to win gold.

While there were initial rumblings that they had not put up results to justify their selection, the national Under-23 football team received the go-ahead on Friday from a 13-member Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) selection committee to compete in the biennial Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, in December.

When told the news on Friday night, Hariss said the goal would be to make history.

Singapore have not won the SEA Games football gold since they made their debut in 1959, finishing with the silver medal on three occasions (1983, 1985, 1989).

"Now that we've been given the nod to compete, we will go there and try and do our country proud," said Hariss.

"For me, this will be my last SEA Games, so I have to achieve the most that I can, which is the gold medal.

"This team will go there prepared. We will be practical, we can't just think about the big prize from the get-go.

"We will take one game at a time, get out of the group stage first, then think of the final two matches."

Midfield star Hariss, 22, has represented the country in the last three SEA Games, winning two bronze medals in 2007 and 2009.

This year's Under-23 team, coached by V Sundramoorthy, feature a majority of players from the LionsXII - the 2013 Malaysian Super League champions.

Many football observers feel this team have a good chance of ending Singapore's football hoodoo at the Games.

Hariss agrees.

"This team have the potential to succeed. In terms of talent and experience, we are right up there with the other contenders," he said.

SNOC general secretary Chris Chan, however, cooled any talk that football is being tipped as a prospective medal sport.

The Under-23s were in danger of missing out on a spot at this year's Games as the team had not produced results against their regional rivals.

Sundram's charges then drew 1-1 with Indonesia's U-23s in Solo, defeated their Philippine counterparts 1-0 at the Hougang Stadium, and beat Indonesia U-23s 1-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium to earn their ticket to Myanmar.

Asked if he thought the football team could earn a medal, Chan said he "didn't know".


"But from what I saw during their win over Indonesia, they weren't too convincing," he added.

When told of Chan's sentiments, Sundram was defiant.

"If we had played convincingly and lost, would we have qualified (for the Games)?" he said.

"Thankfully, the criteria is results, and not performances."

The 47-year-old coach said he was never in doubt that the team would represent the Republic in Myanmar - citing the fact that the side "outperformed in the MSL and did well during the three friendlies".

He was, however, cautious.

"No targets because I don't want such pressure on my boys," Sundram said.

"This is a talented bunch of players who have worked hard this year. If we play to our abilities, we can compete with any team at the SEA Games.

"And with some luck, we can achieve success."

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