On Oct. 31, 2014, Aleksandar Duric will officially call it a day as a professional footballer in Singapore.
Singapore's adopted footballing son, who hails from Yugoslavia and started playing here domestically since 2000, has made his presence felt both on and off the pitch.
Currently in his final season with S-League club Tampines Rovers, Duric's retirement has brought his achievements in and contributions to Singapore over the years back in the spotlight.
The 44-year-old's bittersweet thank you note put up on ESPN on Oct. 29, 2014, has been trending on social media, with comments from readers ranging from "If only more foreign talent can be like Duric" to "Oh my god this guy is a legend".
This sort of responses is not surprising.
Numerous interviews with him in the past few years have made one thing very clear: Singapore gave Duric a stable home and a base, something he never had during his tumultuous years growing up and maturing as an athlete until he was 30 years old. In return, Duric gave Singapore everything.
Here are 11 reasons why Singaporeans love footballer Aleksandar Duric as much as Fandi Ahmad:
1. He is a goal-scoring monster.
Duric, who is 1.92 metres tall, has been hailed as the most prolific goalscorer in the entire world with his tireless work rate of more than one goal for every two games.
Not counting his final 2014 SLeague season, which is due to conclude on Oct. 31, 2014, Duric has scored 376 goals in 519 domestic games.
2. He is dependable
Duric joined the SLeague in 2000 when he was 30 years old and played for Home United where he appeared in 10 games and scored six goals. There was no looking back since. What's more surprising is that he never played as an attacker or striker previously.
By 2003, he scored his hundredth goal in the S-League.
In 2007, he scored his two hundredth goal, making him the third player in Singapore league history to achieve either milestone.
3. He is a fitness freak.
He reportedly runs 15km every single day, which has contributed to his longevity as one of the hardest working footballers in Singapore.
4. He is funny
Duric once said: "I see a lot of talents in Singapore, but they will sit in the coffee shop until 5am. They get fat so easily. They think about girls and everything else first. The last thing is football. In my way, football should be on top."
5. He personally helped Singapore Armed Forces football club win the SLeague title for four consecutive seasons.
In SAFFC's SLeague title-winning years of 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, Duric scored 157 times in 129 appearances. That's more than one goal per game.
This was even better than his record at Geylang, where he scored 97 goals in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
6. He is ethnicity-blind.
Source: Duric (on the left), when he was nine years old, with his dad and older brother Milan.
Duric is of Serbian descent but that didn't stop him from taking up the offer to represent Bosnia in canoeing at the Summer Olympics of 1992, in the midst of Bosnian War.
"One day I got a call like this from the Bosnian Olympic Committee. I have no idea how they got my number but they asked me to go to the Barcelona Olympics in kayaking."
'There were several problems, firstly I hadn’t trained for two years and secondly my country was at war with Bosnia but ultimately I decided I’m a sportsman and I would go."
Not only did he go but he ended up in the opening ceremony in front of a massive global television audience.
'At that time we were fighting against Muslims and Bosnia in the eyes of non-Muslims was a Muslim country and I said you know I’m a Serb and I told them I’d be in trouble if I go for Bosnia with my family but I went anyway.
"On the opening day in Barcelona even though it was a war everyone was watching the Olympics because everyone loves sport and there I was."
'They still fight but at the same time watch and as I was walking with the flag everybody saw me. That night many people came to my parents' house and said tell your son any time he comes home we’ll cut him into pieces."
Duric finished last of the 19 competitors in the C-1 500 event but the Olympics were only a diversion to what was unfolding in his homeland.
'My father fought in this war, my brother for almost five years and my mother was killed in 1993 by the Muslim army. They bombed our village and it hit my home directly. A really big bomb and my mother died instantly."
7. He has three children, one of whom is an adopted Muslim child.
8. He finally managed to become a naturalised Singapore citizen in 2007 after three attempts.
And he got his citizenship based on non-footballing reasons. He was not on the Football Association of Singapore Foreign Talent Scheme and applied like everyone else.
After he received his citizenship, senior citizens in Ghim Moh came up to him saying, "This is the kind of people we need in Singapore."
9. At 37 years old, he was called up to the Singapore national squad.
After he got his Singapore citizenship for non-footballing reasons, he got to play for the Singapore national team at an age most other players would have retired.
In his first game, Duric scored two goals against Tajikistan on Nov. 9, 2007. The match ended 2-0.
He made 54 appearances for Singapore from 2007 and scored 27 goals until his retirement from the national squad in 2012.
10. He became Singapore's first football captain who is not local born.
11. He has been involved in charity work for the past decade.
Besides volunteering at a children's home for the past decade, he adopted a son, Massimo Luca Monty when he was seven days old from the children's home.
In 2012, Đuric became a taxi driver for 12 days to raise $2,657 for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.
Top photo via