By Les Tan
Aleksandar Duric holds up his player of the year award. He is the first player in S.League history to win the award twice. (Photo 1 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
National footballer Aleksandar Duric of the Singapore Armed Forces Football Club was crowned the S.League Player of the Year for the second year running, the first time any player has won the award twice in the 13-year history of Singapore’s only professional sports league.
Duric also won an award for being the top scorer in the S.League with 28 goals to cap off a night to remember for the 38-year-old ethnic Serb who has made Singapore home for the last 10 years and whose two children were born in Singapore. Aleks, who was not on the FAS Foreign Talent Scheme, applied for and received Singapore citizenship in 2007 after having had his application rejected twice.
“I can’t believe it! I really can’t believe it,” said a visibly happy Aleks after receiving the award onstage. “I thought Therdsak should have won it,” referring to his 36-year-old Thai teammate who is the midfield lynchpin for SAFFC.
Does he have the energy to continue playing football next year, despite his heavy commitments with not just club football, but the national team as well?
“At my age, better to play more,” he said. “If I stop, I’m finished. I live to play.”
In a surprise win, Albirex Niigata (Singapore) head coach Hiroaki Hiraoka won the Coach of the Year award, despite two-time winner Richard Bok, coach of SAFFC having a strong case after leading his team to an unprecedented third S.League title this year.
Bowing deeply on stage just before winning the award, Hiraoka said he was surprised, especially since his team had only finished seventh in the 12-team league.
Khairul Amri of Tampines Rovers, who was nominated for the Player of the Year award, won the Young Player of the Year award.
Aleks holds up both his Top Scorer and Player of the Year awards. He also won the top scorer award last year. (Photo 2 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
Aleks posing gamely for the cameras after winning his awards. (Photo 3 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
Khairul Amri of Tampines won the Young Player of the Year award. (Photo 4 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
The writer with Aleks. The Red Sports interview of Aleks was nominated for the Story of the Year award. (Photo 5 © Dawn Yip/Red Sports)
An interview with Aleksandar Duric (in five parts)
Part 1 – “Sometimes we played with no shoes…”
Part 2 – “If your brother is killed, at least I have you.”
Part 3 – "Once you step out on the field, no more crying."
Part 4 – “Are you sure they play football in Singapore?”
Part 5 – "No drinking, no alcohol, no smoking, no late nights"