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 By Kelvin Leong

Aleksandar Duric seeks World Cup dream with Singapore football

Singapore football legend Aleksandar Duric
Aleksandar Duric, right, has played a key role in developing Singapore's next generation of football stars since retirement.

After a successful year in keeping his promise to give back to the sport, former Singapore international Aleksandar Duric is striving to make the Lions' World Cup dream a reality in decades to come.

Having retired as a player in 2014 with more than 350 goals to his name and 17 titles for club and country, the Bosnian-born Singapore legend made good his vow to help develop football in Singapore by joining SportSG on Feb. 1 last year.

He was tasked with setting up the footballing arm of ActiveSG, an initiative to get Singaporeans more involved in sports. The ActiveSG Football Academy has a participation rate of slightly less than 1,000 kids in the last 12 months.

"After retiring as a player, my immediate focus was to find ways to give back to Singapore football and help develop the sport that has given me so much," he told ESPN FC.

"With the support and direction of my SportSG colleagues, the dream of bringing more youngsters to put on their football boots and kick a ball came true.

"We have around 700 to 800 kids in the program now and this will help boost the talent pool in years, or maybe the next one or two decades to come.

"If we can produce a few national team players from this group, it'll benefit the Lions and I don't want us -- as a country -- to just aim for the AFF Suzuki Cup or Asian Cup qualification. It is the World Cup that is the ultimate dream.

"The new World Cup ruling makes it an even bigger possibility for a Southeast Asian country to qualify for it and this is my biggest wish for Singapore."

ESPN FC's Yasmin Abdol Hamid and John Wilkinson break down Singapore's and Malaysia's groups for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

The former Tampines Rovers and Geylang United striker is also keen to use the programme to give Singapore coaches an opportunity to hone their craft. But Duric is hoping one or two of his Active SG coaches can get a chance to coach in the S.League, if not abroad.

"We have some of the best Singapore coaches guiding the kids here like Richard Bok, Steven Tan and Robin Chitrakar, who have their coaching badges, and are constantly getting improving their knowledge of the game every day," Duric added.

"To some, they may just be coaching kids but this is the perfect stepping stone for them to move on to bigger and better things as well.

"The coaching staff take this project very seriously, as they are excited to groom the next generation of footballers, but they are equally capable of managing S.League clubs. Hopefully, they will all get that opportunity in the near future.

"In order to fulfil that World Cup dream, coaches and player development must go hand in hand. Only then, can we get there together."

The ActiveSG football academy will be continuing their programs this year with the main objective of growing the numbers, and giving national team head coach V. Sundramoorthy a bigger talent pool to choose from in future.

ESPN FC editor Kelvin Leong is a former media officer for Singapore and ex-regional editor of ESPNSTAR.com. Twitter: @KelvinLeong29.

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