Duric honoured to retire in legends' presence

The 44-year-old revealed his awe at playing with iconic counterparts such as Ian Rush and Fandi Ahmad in his testimonial match, and reiterated how indebted he feels to Singapore football.

When referee Sukhbir Singh blew the final whistle in The Castlewood Group Liverpool Masters exhibition on Saturday, it symbolised the curtains finally closing on Aleksandar Duric’s 22-year playing career.

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The match served as the 44-year-old’s testimonial game after more than a decade of service to the S.League and Singapore national team, and saw him lace up his boots alongside local heroes Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundramoorthy for the Singapore Ex-Internationals in their 3-1 loss to the former Anfield heroes.

Although Duric failed to get a shot past Jerzy Dudek, the Bosnia-born Singaporean was honoured that more than 7,000 fans turned up at a near-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium for the double treat of seeing their former Liverpool heroes, and paying tribute to his sterling career.

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“I must say a big thank-you to Singapore for giving me a wonderful opportunity to play in this wonderful country, with the clubs here and especially for my national team,” Duric, who hung up his boots at the end of the 2014 S.League season, told FourFourTwo in a post-match interview.

“It has been a wonderful life experience for me and my family. Tonight was just pure happiness. It was enjoyable playing alongside the legends from both sides.”

The all-time S.League top scorer is the first local player to be given a testimonial game since 1998, when Singapore formally bade farewell to the careers of Fandi, Malek Awab and David Lee Soon Chye at the old National Stadium in Kallang.

Duric was thankful he had the opportunity to close a special chapter of his life standing alongside the former Liverpool stars such as Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman.

“This is the first time someone had a testimonial for me. I am thankful to Castlewood Group for allowing me to have this testimonial,” he said.

“Playing in front of a full crowd at Jalan Besar brought back good memories for me with the national team - especially the 2012 Suzuki Cup - and my clubs.

“It was special to play against Liverpool, to have these legends sending me to retirement, and rubbing shoulders with them, playing against Rush, my idol, getting passes from Sundram, Fandi and all.

“All these memories will stay with me forever.”

Looking ahead, the now-retired player, who also enjoyed stints in Hungary and Australia, is aiming to give back to the local game with all he can from the sidelines.

“Don’t worry, I will still be around,” Duric assures local fans. “I intend to stay and help our football grow to a higher level, because I believe we can.”

Main image: Weixiang Lim/ FourFourTwo