All-time S.League top scorer, Aleksandar Duric, has won almost all there is to win in the Great Eastern-YEO’S S.League over the years, so what keeps him going?
Even the fact that he has not yet been on a winning team in the StarHub League Cup makes little difference to the elder statesman’s continuing healthy appetite for the game, which has brought him so many rewards.
Rewards that are richly deserved, it has to be said, as Alex has put in so much effort away from the training ground to still be playing at 43 at a level high enough to see him head the scorers’ list once more, after beginning the season in a part-time playing role.
Duric handed the captaincy over to his good mate and fellow Singaporean, Fahrudin Mustafic, as there was a plan for him to take up coaching before long and restrict his appearances to occasional games when the need arose.
At no stage did the towering forward slacken off in his exercise regime, since part of the plan was for him to work as a fitness coach down the line and he needed to be fit to carry that off.
Before long it became apparent, however, that the fire was still there in the belly for Alex and after coming off the bench and scoring goals, as often as not, he eventually became a regular fixture in the side as the season unfolded.
Duric has been on the winning side three times in the RHB Singapore Cup and no fewer than seven times he’s been part of an S.League winning side.
That League Cup can wait.
Duric seems unlikely to call it a day any time soon, as fitness is not an issue and his enjoyment in playing the game is in no way diminished.
“Maybe next year we can win the League Cup at Tampines Rovers,” he says.
“But it won’t matter if we don’t as I play to win every game and score in every game I play and that’s all I am looking for. It’s still something I enjoy, being part of a team and sharing the company of the other players.
The secret of his longevity, he explains, is how he began his playing days as a young boy.
“At the age of eight I was told to work hard and I have done that ever since. I go for a 10k run every morning when I wake up, I join my wife Natasha for yoga regularly, I go to the gym three times a week and I still cycle regularly.
“The only thing I don’t do as often as I’d like is to swim, as my daughter, who is 11, is better than me and I can’t keep up with her. I do want to improve my swimming for sure.
Coming from a man who represented Bosnia in kayaking in the Olympic Games as a young man, his confession about not being a good swimmer is a surprise. But he’s still probably far better than most of us, even then.
“Staying fit and healthy is important and the coach who told me when I was eight was right. There’s no point in slacking off if you want to reach the top and stay there.
“Even when the season is over I keep to the same routine.
Duric has already long passed the 300 goal mark in S.League and Cup matches and is collecting goals as often as he ever did, even with strong competition from the likes of Mislav Karoglan, Monsef Zerka and Jozef Kaplan this season.
“I’m not sure how many I’ve scored now altogether,” he admits.
“It could be approaching 340-350 by now.
If he had retired, as anticipated, at the end of the current season a target of 400 career goals would have looked impossible.
But since the recently-retired national team player is still showing a clean pair of heels to all manner of defenders and finishing with the surest of touches, as he has always done, he may well continue into the future.
“I will keep playing as long as I am still enjoying it and scoring goals and as long as the team wants me,” he says.
“I don’t really have any targets, even the League Cup is not so important as long as I am rubbing shoulders with the current players and staying in good shape.
With Tampines close to wrapping up another S.League title and Duric two goals in front of his nearest rival for the Golden Boot he may be forgiven for relaxing a little as the season winds down.
But there’s no way that’s going to happen.
He’s even been selected yet again for the Singapore S.League Select team to take on Selangor in the Sultan of Selangor’s Cup this year.
He’s been a member of the winning side three times already and has played under a number of different coaches during his five outings in the annual match, this year with Frenchman Patrick Vallee in charge.
It doesn’t seem to matter who is coaching Duric, in either the S.League or for the Sultan of Selangor’s Cup; he always gives his best and has won medals wherever he plays.
This year is no exception.