Football: Aleksandar Duric bids adieu with emotional farewell letter

At the grand old age of 44, former national football team striker Aleksandar Duric is finally hanging up his scoring boots for good on Friday when he plays his last professional match. -- ST PHOTO: EDWARD TEO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
At the grand old age of 44, former national football team striker Aleksandar Duric is finally hanging up his scoring boots for good on Friday when he plays his last professional match. -- ST PHOTO: EDWARD TEO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

At the grand old age of 44, former national football team striker Aleksandar Duric is finally hanging up his scoring boots for good on Friday when he plays his last professional match.

The Bosnia-born player, who received his Singapore passport in 2007, will try to sign off with a goal for Tampines Rovers at Jalan Besar Stadium against S-League title challengers Brunei DPMM.

But before he exits the floodlit stage, the popular and evergreen star, known for his fitness, work ethic and discipline, wrote a heartfelt farewell letter, that was published on ESPN Soccernet.

Here is what he wrote:

"It is hard to put my thoughts into one letter, but I needed to bid a proper farewell to my football family. The Singapore football family.

"Friday will be one of the saddest days of my life. It is all coming to an end. A beautiful dream that I could never have imagined growing up as a boy from a small town in Doboj, Yugoslavia.

"The moment the final whistle goes, I know the memories will start flooding into my mind, the hundreds of matches I played, the different goals I scored and the heartbreaking moments when my team lost.

I still remember when I first set foot in Singapore in 1999, I reported for training with Tanjong Pagar United FC at Queenstown Stadium and I asked one of my new teammates, "OK, so this is the training ground, so where is the stadium we play at?"

"He stared at me blankly for a minute and we both couldn't stop laughing at my silly question that I am still embarrassed about today. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that, 15 years later at the young age of 44, I will end my career in the very same league with 321 goals, 16 domestic titles and eight individual awards.

"While my club career was important to me, my proudest and biggest moment was when I received my Singapore citizenship in October 2007 and was called up by coach Raddy (Radojko Avramovic) for the national team at the age of 37. I scored both goals in my first game against Tajikistan in a 2010 Fifa World Cup qualifier on my debut. It still sends shivers down my spine when I talk about it now.

"That will be etched in my mind as the proudest moment of my life, apart from the birth of my kids Isabella Nina, Alessandro Hugo and seeing my adopted son Massimo Luca growing up each day.

"I have enjoyed every single moment of this career and I cannot tell you how much emotions I have gone through. The sadness of losing league titles, to the joy of lifting my first Asean trophy with the Lions in 2012 (AFF Suzuki Cup).

"Having played for 15 different club sides, my 24 goals in 53 appearances for the national team will be my biggest take away from the game. I sweat blood and tears for Singapore, and I would give everything to do it all over again.

"All I want now is for somebody to remember me as a decent player, who was humble both on and off the pitch, who tried my very best and gave everything to the clubs I played for and the pride I had wearing the Singapore jersey.

"For the rest of my life, I will live another dream. The dream of giving back to the country that has given me so much. That is why I decided to adopt Massimo and I will now focus on helping Southeast Asian kids fulfill their dreams of playing professional football, scoring goals like I did and have a better life.

"Please forgive me if I cannot hold back my tears on Friday night, but the emotions I am going to experience will be something I cannot describe.

"It is hard to sum it all up in one sentence but I thank each and every one of the coaches, players and fans who have treated me like one of their own. For making my life so beautiful and rich in memories.

"Now it is time for me to take my seat in the stands and cheer Singapore on and I am excited to finally have the chance to chant with the fans and do the Kallang wave as a die-hard supporter.

"So with this, I sign off my football playing career and I ask of you to remember me, the tall old striker who loves Singapore, my home.

"Thank you, S-League. Thank you, Singapore. And thank you my fellow Singaporeans. From a decent striker, a loving father and most importantly, a son of the Lion City."

*This story first appeared on ESPN Soccernet.