Duric: Singapore football's in a “huge crisis” that will take years to fix

Local football legend Aleksandar Duric did not mince his words on the state of Singaporean football, the imminent cut of funding for the S.League and his belief privatisation is needed for the sport to make progress.

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

It was announced early this month that funding for next year’s S.League is set to be reduced to S$8.5 million, almost half of its current annual sum of S$16 million.

The annual subsidies allocated for Singapore’s only professional football league – which is currently into its 21st season – comes from the Tote Board, but is disbursed by SportSG, the national governing body for sports.

Without money, it’s hard to run a kindergarten, let alone a football club. Until we realise that, we’re going to be in trouble

However Duric, an eight-time S.League winner, believes the reduction of resources may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

“We’re in a huge crisis and we called for it,” the 47-year-old told FourFourTwo from the sidelines of a Battle of the Masters press conference at the Marriott Hotel.

“For years you can see the football’s going down and the league’s not in a healthy state. Lots of clubs are relying on government funding.

“Basically, it comes back to the biggest issue which is money. Without money, it’s hard to run a kindergarten, let alone a football club.

“Until we realise that, we’re going to be in trouble.

Duric was part of a strong era for Singapore football

“It could be a good thing (that funding is cut) because now there’s no choice, but for the clubs to go out there to bring in sponsors on their own and get the level of football back where it used to be.

“Looking around the world, clubs are privatised and funded on their own, so it’s time for the club management to do something.

At the moment, it’ll be tough and I think it’ll be a few more editions before we’ll be in the (Suzuki Cup) final again

“If they can’t, they should probably step aside and let somebody else who can do it. I believe there’s enough companies and passionate people who want to invest in Singapore football, so let’s try to connect with these kinds of people.

“It’s a long process, maybe five-to-10 years. We’ll need to be patient and support this project instead of expecting instant dividends. Now everyone’s angry and have their own opinions, which doesn’t help things.”

Duric, who was part of Singapore’s last Suzuki Cup-winning squad in 2012, also believes it will take a long time for the Lions to dethrone Thailand as the kingpins of ASEAN football.

The Singapore national football team has won just two out of 17 official outings under V. Sundramoorthy and is facing an uphill battle to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup, with two draws and one loss in its opening Group E matches.

Thailand are now the dominant team in the region

“It’s a tough question and it’s hard to answer that. But it’ll be long, long (wait),” said Duric.

“At the moment, it’ll be tough and I think it’ll be a few more editions before we’ll be in the (Suzuki Cup) final again.

“As for the Asian Cup qualifiers, I believe we were unlucky in some games. We started well with a 0-0 draw against Bahrain, but it’s the home games which we needed to win, but we didn’t.

“Especially the last game (a 1-1 draw against Turkmenistan), we should really have won by a few goals. Football’s like this – you don’t score and you get punished.

“Unfortunately, the people are judging that the team’s not good and because of that, the players are really under pressure.

“No one really supports us anymore. We need people to acknowledge that maybe the team’s not so good now, but still come out supporting the national team, the league, the clubs and our future.”

Find out more about Duric's amazing journey below

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo