By Khalis Rifhan
There was no rest for several S.League players as they headed straight into preparations for the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup with the national team.
For Tampines Rover striker Aleksandar Duric, there was only two days of break after lifting the league title before making the trip to Japan with his national team-mates for a training camp.
“The players from the S.League did not have any chance to rest and now we are going into another preparation for Suzuki Cup,” said the 42-year-old.
“We are lucky that at least 80% of the players are from LionsXII and they had more rest than us.”
With retirement from international football on the card, Duric hopes to bow out on a high as he believes the team is capable of surprising their critics.
“If you look at the team, it is a good side with lots of experience and young players," he added.
"For me, every game is a last game as I am not going to play anymore after this. So at least I hope we can qualify for the final.
“It is most important to be focused and the group stage is very crucial.”
Having played in the previous two Suzuki Cups, Duric hopes to guide his juniors as they prepare for their opening game against hosts Malaysia on November 25.
“These young players have to realize that when we play against Malaysia, there will be about a hundred thousand home fans and I know that most of the time, players can be very nervous," said the veteran forward.
“It is not easy to play in this type of game. I have played a few times already and I know how bad it can be against our neighbours.
"That is why we are here, to calm them down and guide them in the matches together as a team. For myself, I am just a part of the team. Whether I am playing or not, I will always be there to encourage the players."
Duric also stressed the importance of unity, not only during matches, but also off the field, saying: “We are not just team-mates. We also need to be together as friends and as one. We will be together from now until the end of the group stage.”
“We will be seeing each other more often than we see our own family. It is important now to make a positive atmosphere in the squad."
Singapore open their AFF Cup schedule against Malaysia on November 25 before taking on Indonesia three days later. Their final group game will be on December 1 against Laos.