Lunch with... Aleksandar Duric

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Any plans to go into coaching?

Definitely. I am finishing my A-License badge at the end of the year, maybe early next year. I have to stay in Football. I can't see myself sitting in a office with my tie. I would love to teach the next generation of Singapore players about mental toughness, and how to keep themselves physically fit.

It's very important in today's game. You can have the technique and skill but if you are not fit and not mentally strong, you will not go far.

You have spent 16 seasons in the S.league. Do you think the league has regressed since your first few seasons?

When I came in 1999, the standard was really high. It was definitely the best league in South-East Asia and one of the best in Asia. We had Thai national players, who were very very good, and before that there were Iranian World Cup players. There was a big buzz and Kallang Stadium would have ten thousand fans just watching Geylang versus Woodlands.

Unfortunately we didn't build on that. When there was the SARS crisis in 2003-2004, attendances really went down. But fortunately, they always connected to the National Team and after we won the Suzuki Cup twice, people began to come again to watch. We cannot expect to have 50,000 fans like in Europe but if we can have 3000 or 4000 fans, that's very, very good. But lately, the league has been stretched because we now have a team in the Malaysian League.

It's never ideal to have two leagues, and of course people prefer watching a Singapore team play against teams from another country. So the attention of the fans has been stretched. And there's also been a talent drain. All the best players are now playing for the Lions XII and so, of course, the S.league struggles. For myself as a fan, I want to see at least three or four good players playing for my team.

Who is the toughest defender you have played against?

S. Subramani from Home United. He was always very hard to get past because he was so fit and so experienced. Kenji Arai as well. I first played against him when he turned out for Albirex, and I was very happy when he joined me at Warriors.

You have scored plenty of goals in your career. Any particularly memorable ones?

The two goals I scored against Tajikistan are definitely the most memorable ones but there are also those I scored in the 5-3 win over Malaysia at Jalan Besar. It was a very important World Cup Qualifier and my fifth goal ensured the game was won.

How did you come to the decision that this was going to be your last year?

You know, I have always believed age is just a number and that's why I kept going right into my forties. But in the last two seasons, I began to feel it mentally. I am not a superstitious person, but I just think 44 is the right number.

I think I am retiring at the right time. I am still very fit. But I didn't want people to think, "Ah, this guy, he is always injured or ah, he cannot run anymore." I never ever miss training, I never ever miss a game, so I want people to remember me as that player. I wanted to prepare myself mentally for retirement.

That is why I announced at the start of this season that this was going to be my last year.

Photo credit: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo