Thank you, Singapore, says cancer-stricken Avramovic

Former Home United coach Raddy Avramovic pictured with assistant coach Noh Rahman (far left) and Home player Aqhari Abdullah during a training session in July. He stepped down on Sunday to return to Serbia for cancer treatment. ST FILE PHOTO
Former Home United coach Raddy Avramovic pictured with assistant coach Noh Rahman (left) and Home player Aqhari Abdullah during a training session in July. He stepped down on Sunday to return to Serbia for cancer treatment. ST FILE PHOTOST FILE PHOTO

Throughout his 50-year football career, Raddy Avramovic has always been a fighter.

Even as national coach of minnows Singapore, he would always look for a way to beat tough opponents, and remains the first coach to lead the Lions to victories over Asian powerhouses Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq and North Korea.

It is with the same positive attitude that the 69-year-old will now begin his fight against second-stage lung cancer.

Except that now, it is many Singaporeans who will be behind the man who led the Lions to three Asean titles (2005, 2007, 2012) in a 10-year reign.

Avramovic, who returns to Serbia today for treatment, had stepped down as coach of Home United on Sunday. This was less than two months after his appointment by the Singapore Premier League club (SPL) on July 2.

He told The Straits Times: "I received so many messages and well wishes on social media, and it is nice to see and feel the support of Singaporeans. Thank you.

"I also met quite a few former and current players, officials, and friends over the past few days. Hopefully, I will be back next year.

"There are very good doctors in Belgrade and I will meet them on Saturday to see what our options are."

The craggy-faced coach sees "the good news in the bad news", as he shared how the cancer was detected. After clearing medical tests for his work permit to coach Home, he went for an additional checkup which led to the diagnosis.

He said: "I had no symptoms, I was feeling normal. If I had been in Kuwait (where he was coaching Al Tadhamon before taking over at Home) or Serbia, it wouldn't have been detected this early because I would have no need to see a doctor."

Looking none the worse for wear, Avramovic admitted that he will stop smoking, a habit he has had since he was 26, and advised others to follow suit.

He added: "I told my players, when I was playing and then coaching, I thought I was Superman. But now, I think Superman exists only in movies."

His passion for the sport, and Singapore football in particular, is obvious. Even after stepping down on Sunday, the former coach of the Omani Olympic team, Kuwait and Myanmar was at Jalan Besar to watch Hougang United beat the Young Lions 4-2 in the SPL.

But he told ST he is ready to end his coaching career. With a chuckle, he said: "That's it. At least I finish with a win."

His last match was a 3-1 win over Warriors FC on Saturday. In his short stint, he had four wins and a draw in eight games and helped the Protectors improve from sixth to fifth in the nine-team league.

He added: "I see quite a few interesting players for the future, and they must be coached with care.

"Fandi (Ahmad) has a good team for the SEA Games and the national team have a good core of players too. They should get good support and I wish them all the best."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2019, with the headline 'Thank you, Singapore, says cancer-stricken Avramovic'. Print Edition | Subscribe