When players half his age constantly struggle to score, Aleksandar Duric at 43 remains a goal-scoring machine for champions Tampines Rovers in Singapore’s Premier League.
With a couple of games this season still to go, the Bosnian-born Duric, an enduring phenomenon in Singapore football, cut his toe and his doctor saw the injury as the end of the season for the striker. But in his typical football-first fashion, Duric defied the doctor’s orders and the rest is S-League history.
Duric ended up as the top scorer yet again and seems to be in no great hurry to hang up his golden boots.
“I am looking forward to the next season. That will be my last,” Duric told the Post after passing on a few tips to the players of Naga Corp at the 3G Field on Friday, the last day of his breezy visit to Phnom Penh at the invitation of NagaWorld.
“Its family and football all my life. I will definitely stay with football after my playing days,” added Duric, whose amazing longevity as a player has few parallels in today’s competitive world.
There is little doubt that keeping absolutely fit has been the key to his success on the pitch as a striker. But what is his secret?
In his own words, it is: “No to alcohol, smoking and late nights.”
Imagine a 22-year-old Duric representing Bosnia in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics not in football but in kayaking. No one could have predicted he would go this far in football.
“Life was hard. I promised myself, no one else did. I left home when I was 18 and never saw my family for 10 years,” he said.
“You succeed only if you are passionate with the game and that is what I keep telling these youngsters.”
In fact, the Duric trip was months in the making. NagaWorld sought him out as part of their drive to help the next generation of Cambodian athletes. The gaming and entertainment giant, who have partnered with the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia to send the 2013 delegation to the SEA Games in Myanmar next month, wanted Duric to cast an expert eye on the Kingdom’s football stock.
Tied up as he was for a couple of months with his hectic schedule, he made it to Cambodia the middle of last week.
Duric spent quality time with the National U19 players, visited the Phnom Penh Crown Academy and shared his experiences with the Naga team.
“What I feel from what I have seen is that Cambodia’s future is bright. I saw some very talented youngsters. But there are two areas that need attention,” said Duric.
“Cambodia needs a few more good coaches to fine tune players skills and players have to work on their fitness and build up stamina to last 90 minutes.
“Physically, players in this region are not big-framed. But the key is how strong you are and not how big you are. Look at Lionel Messi. He is not big, but no one can push him out of the ball. That strength is what players need to build.”
Duric had a captive audience wherever he went. Players were all eyes and ears, eager for his assessments and observations. And he didn’t disappoint.
“I will talk to my team management and try and get some of my [Tampines] Rovers team-mates to visit Cambodia and play a few friendlies,” he said.
For a player who made his international debut at 37, scoring twice in Singapore’s 2-0 win over Tajikistan in the 2007 World Cup Qualifier, goals have come in torrents from his trusty left foot. Duric claims he uses his right foot more while driving his car than on the pitch.
His colourful career and his passion for football is best defined by what he said after that victory over Tajikistan. “I was so proud. I could have scored 10 that night. I was flying – nobody could catch me,” Duric added.
Indeed, he is still flying and his peers in Singapore are left with probably one more season to catch up with him.