Forty is an age that has long been associated with maturity. Over 2,000 years ago Chinese philosopher Confucius famously said men will “have no more doubts” as they began their fifth decade
Yet forty is also an age by which most footballers have retired, with the likes of Lev Yashin and Dino Zoff, who hung up their gloves at 40 and 41 respectively, and Stanley Matthews, who appeared at the top level until he was 50, rare exceptions.
In the region in which Confucius began spreading his wisdom, however, two veterans are showing their maturity on football pitches: Aleksandar Duric, 43, and 46-year-old Kazu Miura.
Honours abound for evergreen Duric
There was much speculation as to whether Duric would prolong his career into the 2013 Singaporean S.League. The giant striker did. Tampines Rovers have, once again, reaped the rewards. With Duric finishing as the competition’s 16-goal leading marksman, the Stags strolled to their third successive title. It was the fourth time the Yugoslavia-born former Singapore striker had topped the S.League scoring chart and, incredibly, the eighth he had finished it as champions after lifting the trophy with Geyland United in 2001 and on four straight occasions with Singapore Armed Forces before a 2010 switch to Tampines.
"My answer is always hard work when people ask about my goalscoring techniques," Duric told FIFA.com, "I have kept training hard have tried to prevent myself sustaining aging injuries. You should maintain fitness and it means you should be strictly self-disciplined each day. In the eyes of my friends, I am always a guy who doesn't know holidays because I am dedicated to football!”
"As the oldest player of my team – even our coach is younger – I usually spend the most time in training. To be honest, I am a working machine and they say I look crazy (in training and in matches)! I have been like this for all these years."
As well as source of goals for Tampines, Duric is also a source of encouragement to his team-mates: "As a striker you should always focus on training and playing if you are to beat your opponents and score goals. So I always tell my young team-mates to work harder. Every striker has his philosophy and mentality, but my motto is that the talent is nothing without hard work."
Last year Duric announced his retirement from the national team, for whom he hit 27 goals in 54 internationals, and he is aiming to round off his club career in style.
"I am going to play for another season, and I hope we can have a good one,” he explained. “After that I will begin coaching, a job for which I have long prepared. I will work hard to get my coaching certificate. I hope I can find a managerial job in Singapore, but if I fail I will move to coach a team overseas.
“I am very much looking forward to next season because I want a good ending to my career and to then begin a new chapter."
While Duric is preparing for next season's swan song, it seems that Miura, or King Kazu as he is nicknamed, has yet to set his sights on retirement. The 46-year-old former Japan international, who represented his country at last year's FIFA Futsal World Cup in Thailand, has been making headlines in the second-flight J.League 2, where he is playing for Yokohama FC.
In July, at home to Tochigi, Miura put his side ahead inside a minute, with the goal seeing his J.League oldest-scorer record reset at the age of 46 years, four months and seven days. And it didn’t take him long to set a fresh benchmark, when he was on target against Matsumoto in November.
A living legend in Japanese football, Miura has boasted an enviable playing career. He’s represented the likes of Brazilian giants Santos and Palmeiras and nine-time Italian champions Genoa, while he was named AFC Player of the Year for 1993.
Despite that accomplishment coming two decades ago, Miura is not ready to call it quits.
"Age is not a problem for me," he insisted recently. "I never mind it. I want to continue to play for a very long period."