Hariss Harun And Lion City Sailors Kick Start New Era Of Singapore Football
Jalan Besar Stadium was rocking. In front of a sell-out crowd, the Lion City Sailors thrashed Balestier Khalsa 4-1 on the last day of the season to win the Singapore Premier League (SPL) title.
It was vindication for the Bishan-based outfit and Singapore's first-ever privatised football club. In February 2020, the team formerly known as Home United was bought over by home-grown global company Sea (the organisation behind Shopee) and it's billionaire co-founder and CEO, Forrest Li. (No, this is not FIFA or Football Manager; Singapore really has its very own billionaire-backed football club.)
With it came new superstar signings and a renewed interest in the local game. But we'd argue that one of the best decisions the Lion City Sailors have made was in bringing back Singapore football's prodigal son, Hariss Harun.
Character Bio: The 31-year-old midfielder and Singapore National Team captain needs no introduction. As our country's youngest ever debutant, he was only 16 years old when he donned the iconic red kit for the first time.
Famed for his tenacity and leadership skills, Hariss has also been known to score a few wonder goals as well. Check out the video above and see his worldie for yourself.
Hariss has since blossomed into one of the best players of his generation, winning multiple championships across the Causeway with Malaysia Super League (MSL) side Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT).
Fun fact: Hariss has even been featured on the wildly popular football console series eFootball PES 2020. You know you've made it when you can play as yourself in a video game.
He shares this rather unique distinction with only two other Singapore footballers (Safuwan Baharudin and Baihakki Khaizan). Petition for the Lion City Sailors team to feature on next year's FIFA 23, please!
Achievement Unlocked: In spite of his numerous accolades, you'll be surprised to know that Hariss has never actually won an SPL championship here on home soil. So when the Sailors came calling, Hariss was not going to miss this opportunity.
Fast forward to this past October, the midfielder achieved a boyhood dream, and, at the same time, helped usher in a new era of success for the young club. The fact that Lion City Sailor's victory ended a 6-year run of only foreign clubs winning the league made it all the memorable for long-suffering local football fans.
"SPL title sealed. Credits to the team for the hard work throughout the season. THIS IS OURS!" Hariss wrote on his Instagram. Spoken like a true captain.
Level Up: As the SPL 2021 champions, the Lion City Sailors have now qualified for next season's Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League, where the best teams from the continent will do battle with one another. It's a chance for the Sailors to prove themselves against established clubs from Japan, South Korea and even the Middle East.
In the meantime, Hariss now has his sights set on leading Singapore for the upcoming Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup in December. While the Lions have won this regional title four times in our history, we have not clinched the cup since 2012, and Hariss hopes to rectify that situation, given that the tournament will take place on home soil.
At the end of the day, what local fans really crave is for the team to be successful on the international stage once more. With Hariss spearheading the charge for both his club and country, here's hoping that we're entering a new golden age of local football.