Singapore: Singapore striking great Aleksandar Duric fittingly signed off with a win on Friday as he brought one of world football's most prolific careers to a halt at the age of 44. Duric provided the assist for the second goal as Tampines Rovers beat DPMM Brunei 2-1, dashing ex-Blackburn boss Steve Keane's hopes of winning the S-League title in his first season in charge.
It was an emotional night for the tall, physical Duric, who with 330 goals in Singapore's S-League is credited with scoring more times in a single league than any other active player. The Yugoslav-born forward is also listed as the second oldest goal-scorer in the history of international football after netting against Malaysia at the ripe age of 42.
"It's very emotional," Duric told AFP. "A lot has been going through my mind. It's not easy -- I thought it would be much easier because I have prepared myself for the last 10 months. "But when it came it's much tougher.
It's a chapter in my life that's finished and I'm preparing myself for the next." In what has been an extraordinary career, Duric also kayaked for newly formed Bosnia at the 1992 Olympics and played in Sweden, Hungary, China and Australia before settling in Singapore in 1999. Including cup goals, he exits with 376 Singapore club strikes to his name and a tally of eight league titles and three cup wins, plus three player of the season and four top-scorer awards.
Duric made his debut for Singapore in 2007 aged 37, after receiving citizenship, and compiled 24 goals in 53 games, helping his adopted country win two Southeast Asian titles. He scored in the 3-0 win over Malaysia in 2012 aged 42 years and 105 days, second only to the US Virgin Isles' Keithroy Cornelius who found the net aged 43 in 2011. According to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, Duric has the most goals in a single league of any active player worldwide.
"I set some records and they will stay forever," he said. "I'm really proud of what I did but it doesn't mean much to me. It will mean more to the people and my kids." Duric's globe-trotting journey started when he left the former Yugoslavia for a trial in Sweden, and was unable to return when war broke out in 1991.
Later, the talented junior kayaker was asked to represent Bosnia at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and he duly obliged -- by hitch-hiking across Europe and competing with borrowed equipment. "I never imagined I would play until 44 but I knew I had to work extra-hard and stay motivated -- motivation is the biggest factor in my life," he said. "It will be hard tomorrow morning when I wake up and there's no more dressing room, no fun with the boys and no more training and preparations for matches."