Hariss Harun is ready to lead Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in their maiden foray into the AFC Champions League (ACL) next season, and has vowed to upkeep TMJ’s winning mentality despite a tough journey ahead.
The Southern Tigers won a fifth successive Malaysian Super League (MSL) title this year to qualify for the group stages of Asia’s top club competition, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.
Despite their success in the AFC Cup in 2015, JDT have never mixed it up with the big guns in the ACL, a competition that will see the heavyweights of Asia from West Asia, Australia, Japan and South Korea fight for the coveted ‘Kings of Asian football’ crown.
While the Singapore international – who recently inked a two-year extension to stay with the club until 2021 – admitted that it will be a tough ask to go up against more illustrious opponents, the JDT captain reckons the mental attitude that the players bring to the table will be the difference between “showing up to participate” and “trying to show what JDT is made of”.
“I am really looking forward to this competition (ACL) because it is the biggest stage in Asia and it will be a great challenge to be going up against some of Asia’s top club sides,” Hariss told FOX Sports Asia.
“At JDT, the winning mentality is part of the DNA of this club and when we go into this competition, we cannot feel like we are there to make up the numbers. We need to go onto the pitch wanting to give everything and prove that we deserve to be there.”
While the Southern Tigers lack experience at this level, Hariss feels that the team’s “secret weapon” will be on the shoulders of one man, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) the crown prince of Johor.
TMJ who owns the club, has been the inspirational figure for the Malaysian giants, backing the team with the finances and resources like modern training facilities and good foreign imports.
With him at the helm, JDT have won a lot of silverware which includes five league titles, two domestic Cup trophies and they were also crowned AFC Cup champions for the first time four years ago.
“TMJ defines the club. He is a winner and that sets the tone for everybody involved because he doesn’t settle for second best and it rubs off on the players,” Hariss remarked.
“We know we have to give our best but what we also know is that when the going gets tough, he will rally around us.
“He believes in us sometimes even more than we believe in ourselves and the players are grateful for his unwavering support always. So this same attitude and mentality has to follow us through our ACL campaign if we are to cut it at that level.”
Hariss will now shift his focus from the Southern Tigers to international duty with Singapore at the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.