IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO BELIEVE AND HAVE DREAMS.
I WAS 37 WHEN I GOT MY FIRST CALL-UP FOR SINGAPORE.

ALEKSANDAR DURIC
EX-NATIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER AND NOW ASSISTANT COACH & FITNESS COACH OF TAMPINES ROVERS

It is always a challenge when you are changing jobs, and it was the same for me in my transition from being a player to becoming a coach. After more than twenty years as a player, you suddenly realise there are no more games to look forward to. It can be tough, but I have embraced the challenge and I am really enjoying myself now, learning something new every day. I have to thank Mr Teo Hock Seng (Chairman of Tampines Rovers) for allowing me to stay in football as Assistant Coach of Tampines Rovers. In Sundram (V.Sundramoorthy – Head Coach of Tampines Rovers), one of the best coaches in South-East Asia. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor to learn from. I am like a sponge, trying to absorb as much information as I can from him.

It’s really been quite a big step up, because as a player, all you needed to do was to train and play a good game, but now I have a lot more responsibilities – I have twenty five players under me, I need to manage their relationships with each other, and with the coach. It’s perhaps a little easier for me compared to someone new coming in, because I have been with Tampines Rovers for a few years already, and the players respect me. They know who I am and what I have done, so they haven’t given me too many problems.

I started preparing for retirement about three years ago by going for courses to get my coaching badges and completed my A-License badge (highest level) at the end of last year. Each of the courses lasted a few weeks but the club was very supportive and gave me the time off required to complete the courses. The theory sessions, where we had to sit in a classroom all day were mentally taxing and probably the toughest part of the courses for me but I also took a lot away from them. I think re-training and going for skills upgrading is absolutely necessary for anyone looking to make the switch to another career path.

It’s always good to believe and have dreams. I was 37 when I got my first call-up for Singapore. I had applied for citizenship a few years before that but my applications were rejected. I only obtained citizenship on my third try when I was already 37. I wasn’t expecting it but a national call-up happened soon after that. There were people who wondered if I was too old to play for Singapore, but I went on to score both goals in the 2-0 win against Tajikistan that took us into the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers for the first time in history! I went on to play another five years at international level till I was 42, when I helped Singapore win the AFF Suzuki Cup (Southeast Asia’s Premier Football Tournament). So, I think I proved that you should not place too much emphasis on age. As long as you perform, it does not matter what age you are. I did it in football, and the same should apply for any other occupation.

This story is a part of the PME Conversation book,  brought to you courtesy of UP for PME.