Coach Raddy's farewell interview

"Can I get you a coffee?" asks Raddy Avramovic.

Some things do not change. As always before interviews, he offers to pick up the tab, even when the media flows with criticism for him.

But things have changed.

After nine years, he is no longer Singapore's football coach. On Tuesday, he and wife will return to Serbia - his first vacation in two years.

His voice was even more hoarse than usual yesterday, as he spends his last week on this island saying farewell to friends and former colleagues.

At one dinner, he stares at a picture of himself in 1977, when he was playing in goal for then Yugoslavian club NK Rijeka, his face free of lines, his hair full and black.

"Look at what Singapore has done to me," the 63-year-old teases.

Known for his reticence, Avramovic presents another side this time.

He talks about his biggest heart- ache here, when Singapore missed out on qualifying for the 2011 Asian Cup, the continent's biggest football tournament where the big boys such as Japan and South Korea play, by a single point - the 1-2 loss to Jordan the year before ending the dream.

"That failure was the biggest disappointment," he sighs. "While we have some success at the Asean level, the next step is the Asian Cup. That is where we can truly test ourselves, and we missed it by just one point."

He reveals when he decided that he will not renew his contract - after the Lions were thumped 7-1 by Iraq in the third round of the World Cup qualifiers in February last year and finished bottom of the group with six losses and no wins.

"But I didn't want to quit. I knew we had the foundations of a good team and I had the chance to bring in new players. In the end, it paid off. These boys have written football history for Singapore."

Maybe that is why Avramovic is so much more willing to open up.

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