S-League: Duric keen to give back as playing career draws to a close

S-League: Duric keen to give back as playing career draws to a close
Tampines Rovers players (front row from left), Mohamed Jamil, Aleksandar Duric, Mustafic Farudin and Abdil Qaiyyim at a training session. The Bosnia-born Duric has represented Tanjong Pagar, Home United, Geylang, Warriors FC (previously SAFFC) and Tampines, and will be hanging up his boots soon.

For many fans, veteran striker Aleksandar Duric is the evergreen face of the Singapore football scene but his remarkable 15-year run is finally coming to an end.

The whistle at the end of tonight's S-League match between his Tampines Rovers side and Brunei DPMM at Jalan Besar Stadium will also bring a close to his playing career here, which had carried on despite earlier false alarms.

Even now the 44-year-old does not sound totally convincing when he talks about quitting.

"I could probably play on for a few more years but I came to a point where I realised I've achieved everything I can in football," said the striker who is the most decorated player in the league's 19-year history.

"It is time for me to hang up my boots and find a new challenge in my life."

He has plenty to be proud of.

In 15 seasons in the S-League, the Bosnia-born Duric has represented Tanjong Pagar, Home United, Geylang, Warriors FC (previously SAFFC) and Tampines.

His 381 goals helped to bag eight league titles and three Singapore Cups.

Tohari Paijan, Duric's coach when he first played here with Tanjong Pagar in 1999, remembers being impressed with his professionalism and attitude.

"Aleks mixed well with the locals," said Tohari, who is now a school coach.

"He is humble, possesses this never-say-die spirit and was always doing his own physical training, which is why I'm not surprised he has got this far."

Duric, who clinched three S-League Player of the Year and four top scorer awards, also felt at home playing - and living - here.

"This place is special to me because I spent 15 years here, growing up as not only a person but also as a father," said Duric who applied for Singapore citizenship three times before being accepted in 2007.

"Singapore feels more like home to me than Bosnia (as) my family feels Singaporean inside and I will always promote my home to everyone in the best way I can," he added.

After attaining citizenship, he was handed his first national call-up two months later, and scored two goals on his debut in a 2-0 win against Tajikistan in a 2010 World Cup qualifier here.

In an open farewell letter he wrote on the ESPN FC website, Duric listed that game as the proudest moment of his career. He went on to play 54 times for Singapore, scoring 27 goals.

Those exploits for both clubs and country have endeared him to many fans here.

Among them is Tampines chairman Teo Hock Seng who said: "He's been a loyal servant to Tampines and I've told him that there will be a job in the technical team here for him if he wants it."

Duric said he had been very touched after reading some of these messages that accompanied the letter online.

He wants to remain in Singapore and find work in the football community and charity sector.

Currently an ambassador for Beyond Social Services, he has visited Cambodia and Laos to run football clinics for underprivileged children.

"I want to give back as much as I can to the community that has given so much to me," said Duric.

And what is his farewell message to supporters?

"I wish fans will get behind local football because, without them, we are nothing," he said.

This article was first published on October 31, 2014.
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