Duric wants to inspire needy teens with boots

After being told about a teen who kept slipping on the pitch during training sessions because he did not own football boots, a light bulb went off for former national striker Aleksandar Duric.

He told The Straits Times: "When I was a player, at the end of the season we used to throw most of our boots away.

"So I thought, why not collect boots from the local clubs and pass them on to kids who need them? I picked up the phone and called all my kakis (Singlish for close friends) and everybody was happy to help."

Duric, who retired in 2014 and is now principal of the ActiveSG football academy run by national agency Sport Singapore, rang his former teammates and contacts at all eight professional Singapore Premier League (SPL) clubs and each one volunteered to contribute to the boots drive.

Since the SPL season ended on Oct 10, Duric has received over 40 pairs of football boots - that can cost over $300 a pair - and other items like goalkeeper gloves, shin pads and running shoes.

The first pair went to the player who sparked Duric's idea. The youth is a part of the Saturday Night Lights programme, which aims to take underprivileged and at-risk youths off the streets through formal football training on Saturday evenings.

The hand-me-downs go beyond just serving a functional role, said Duric, 51.

They also have an aspirational one.

"Imagine how one of these boys will feel training and playing knowing they have (national captain) Hariss Harun's boots on," he said.

Shawn Lim, head of SportCares, which runs the Saturday Night Lights programme, added that the boots drive is aligned with SportSG's efforts as part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, unveiled by the Government in February to advance the national agenda on sustainable development.

One of the aims of the plan is for Singapore to reduce waste sent to the landfill by 30 per cent, with an interim target for a 20 per cent reduction by 2026.

Said Lim: "This is a very good opportunity for us to contribute to the Singapore Green Plan by avoiding waste and extending the life of the boots, many of which are in good condition."

He added that SportSG will also explore opportunities to distribute the gear to young players in need who may not be in SportCares or SportSG programmes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2021, with the headline 'Duric wants to inspire needy teens with boots'. Subscribe