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Lim Say Heng
Tue, Oct 14, 2008
The New Paper
'I won't give up my Singapore passport'

GIVE up my passport after my playing days are over? No way, says Bosnian-born Singaporean Aleksander Duric.

The 38-year-old Singapore Armed Forces FC striker acknowledges that it would be difficult for his family of four to maintain their current lifestyle after he retires from playing competitive football.

But he says he would not give up his Singapore citizenship and return to Australia, where he was previously based.

'All my true friends are here,' he said. 'I feel that I am a part of Singapore and this is my home.'

'I can't see myself going on for more than a year. I have many plans for myself after I stop playing,' he added, referring to his month-old football academy and his plans to pursue a professional coaching licence.

'Whether they work or not I am not sure.'

'But one thing is for sure, I am not going to give up my passport because I am totally different from Egmar and Mirko.'

Egmar Goncalves returned to Brazil last year after a contractual dispute with Home United, while Mirko Grabovac renounced his citizenship two weeks ago to return to his family in Croatia.

Both had their citizenship applications fast-tracked under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme in 2002.

Unlike the two, Duric applied for citizenship on his own accord. He failed twice in his application before finally becoming a Singaporean in September last year.

But the veteran footballer empathises with the two ex-Singaporeans' predicaments.

'Maybe they expected some help, and in my opinion they should have got some help,' he said.

'Maybe it was a misunderstanding between them, the Football Association of Singapore and the clubs.'

'But I am sure they didn't want to leave.'

Duric reckons that Singaporeans' high expectations of foreign-born players also add undue pressure on them.

That is in addition to the pressures of having to deal with a new environment, weather and playing culture, he said.

'People ask too much of foreign players and don't give them any chance to get settled.

'It is not like that in other countries, where people give you a lot of time,' added Duric, who has played in Sweden, Hungary, China and Australia.

Culture

'They help you settle in first and slowly introduce you to their culture and football.'

Which was why Duric and his wife Natasha found it difficult to settle down when they came in 1999 from Australia.

She said: 'It was very difficult to make friends then, and I was away from my family for the first time, and back in Australia I was still staying with my mother and sister.

'So it wasn't just leaving my home, but it was also about moving to a different country with a different culture.'

But things looked up in 2002, after the arrival of their daughter Isabella.

'It was much easier to meet people,' said Natasha, a 32-year-old yoga teacher. 'I had a focus, my focus was my children and it was easy to meet people - other parents of the same age in the condominium or play groups.'

And the fact that both Isabella and their three-year-old son Alessandro were born here has cemented their decision to make Singapore their home.

'They feel more Singaporean than Australian,' she said. 'Whenever they go to Australia they would go 'Mum where is my chicken rice?'

'I tried giving them the Australian meat pie but they wouldn't eat it.'

While the Durics have decided to make Singapore their home, Natasha concedes that the rising cost of living may force them to look elsewhere.

They are currently staying in a rented condominium apartment near Holland Village, and Isabella is a first-grader at the Canadian International School because the couple does not know if the local school system 'would nurture what she is good at'.

'We would like to (stay in Singapore),' said Natasha. 'But if we can't afford to over the years, then we have no choice.'


 
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