From the moment he first stepped onto the football pitch and kicked his first ball when he was three, Harhys Stewart knew that he had found his calling. This 20-year-old Singaporean has dedicated his young life to the beautiful game, which led to him signing on with the Young Lions as a defender last year. But when the pandemic put sports on hold shortly after, Stewart temporarily stepped out of his football cleats and into the fashion world—signing on with NOW Model Management and making a splash in the world of style. Born to a Singaporean Malay-Chinese mother and a Welsh father, Stewart, with his unique look, well-defined features, grey-blue eyes and lean, taut body, wouldn’t look out of place on a CELINE runway. Here, he talks about the highs and hurdles of chasing a childhood dream—and doing it in pink shoes to boot.
When did your passion for football start?
My dad was really into sports and that rubbed off on me. Growing up, my elder brother Ryhan (21 and also a national football player) and I played a lot of sports, and I slowly went into football because it was what I enjoyed the most. From a young age, I knew I wanted to be like the football players I saw on TV, playing in front of a big crowd. Ryhan and I had similar goals, so we worked off each other, trained together, got on the same teams… it was a lot easier having someone there with you, helping you get through everything.
What was your childhood like, being so dedicated to one thing so early on?
Obviously, you have to sacrifice a lot, but for me, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice because I’ve always wanted to do this—I knew how much I wanted it and I knew I had to go the extra mile for it. There were times I couldn’t hang out with friends, or had to wake up really early in the morning, or had to miss certain events because of training, but I don’t feel like I missed out because at the end of the day, I’d rather be playing football than doing anything else anyway. Looking back, yeah, it was a unique childhood, but there’s nothing I’d rather do.
What were some of the other challenges you’ve faced on this path you’ve chosen?
I moved quite a lot because of my dad’s job and that was a challenge. Assimilating and acclimatising to a new culture was quite difficult, especially when I moved to Dubai when I was seven. And then moving again to Finland when I was 12… the cultures were all very different. I think that was how football really helped me—it’s a universal language; it allowed me to make friends and connect with people from all over the world. We didn’t understand one another, but we could still have fun. Another challenge was that I was always smaller [built] when I was younger. When I was 15 or 16, everyone else was already bigger and stronger, and I was lagging behind in my strength and development. But I just knew that I had to focus on working on my skills and eventually, when my physique catches up, I could become better than everyone else because I’m a more skilful player.
What have been career highs for you so far?
I’d say that one of the highs was making my professional debut last year—signing that contract and playing my first game. As a kid, you always imagine how it’s going to be, so I was really happy to check that box. It was one small tick in a long list of things, but it was a very significant step for me.
What was the past year like for you, with the pandemic and all its restrictions?
It was a very drastic change from what I was used to, but I was also able to take a lot of time to reflect and just take a step back instead of being so focused on football—it felt like for the longest time, I was just so focused on it that every day became a blur; time was going by so quickly. So even though that period was quite boring and alarming, it was interesting because it allowed me to reflect on myself and set some goals—the things I want to achieve and how to work towards them. I didn’t have anything going on, but I didn’t stay stagnant. That time allowed me to focus on myself and how to be a better individual.
You also ventured into modelling the past year—how has that experience been?
It wasn’t something I ever really thought about. I just remember following my girlfriend to a casting and the person there was like, ‘Oh, would you be interested in signing up?’ I don’t really like taking photos, but I was like, why not give it a go? I had so much time then because of the Covid-19 situation and I didn’t have school anymore. At first, it was quite nerve-racking because I’ve never had so many people concentrate on just me. Having everyone’s eyes on me, I felt a bit… I don’t know, insecure? But slowly, I started getting used to it. I think people underestimate just how much work and time goes into [a shoot]—it’s not just about you; there are so many other factors that are so important. It’s been really interesting to see that side.
What are your goals and inspirations?
My ultimate goal is to go overseas and play for an international team. I just want to push my boundaries as far as I can and be the best I can be. It’s not about being the best according to someone else’s vision; it’s about doing everything I can so that at the end of the day when I’m done, I know I did everything I could—I want to feel like I have given my all. I look up to a lot of players both here and overseas. Being a Liverpool fan, I really like Mohamed Salah. I look at these players and it’s really interesting to see how they dedicate their lives and time to honing their craft—not only on the field, but off it as well. They take care of their bodies and everything they do is geared towards being a better player. That’s how I want to be; I want my life to revolve around everything I can do to become a better football player.
Photographer: Stefan Khoo
Stylist: Jeffrey Yan
Makeup: Wee Ming
Photographer’s assistant: Alif
Stylist’s assistant: Nadia Lim