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Serbian pensioner can't kick football habit

At 66, Dragisa Kosnic who plays for a club in Serbia's official football league, has no plans to stop
At 66, Dragisa Kosnic who plays for a club in Serbia's official football league, has no plans to stop Andrej ISAKOVIC AFP
3 min
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Medja (Serbia) (AFP)

Serbia's Dragisa Kosnic lives and breathes football and despite being nearly 67 years old has no plans to hang up his boots just yet.

He plays week in, week out in Serbia's official football league, which requires rigorous medical tests to check his fitness before each season.

He says that he doesn't know of any other players of his age in the same position -- his teammates tend to be young enough to be his grandchildren.

Kosnic, or "Kole" as he is known, plays for his hometown team in northeastern Serbia, Proleter Medja, which is currently in the league's sixth division.

Loading up his decades-old Yugo car with shabby football boots and tattered shin pads, he heads to the same uneven pitch he played his first league match on in 1968.

"I believe that there are no registered players (of my age), and if there are, I'd like to meet them and play a game," Kosnic told AFP, before a match late last month.

The stocky defensive midfielder admits that he can't always keep up with his teammates, the youngest of whom is 50 years his junior.

"I play more by 'reading the game', so I know when to start running, when to stop and when to sprint," he said.

"Although the next day and two days after (the match), my muscles are sore, I limp a little, so I soak in a hot bathtub, and after two days, I'm ready to play again."

Kosnic lives in the village of Medja in the same ramshackle house in which he was born.

He receives a pension of less than 130 euros ($153) a month and also keeps a couple of goats and sheep.

In the late 1970s when Kosnic, who also used to coach players, was at the peak of his footballing career he played for another team, Proleter Zrenjanin.

The club competed in the former Yugoslavia's second division but managed to eliminate that season's champions Hajduk Split in a cup match in 1978.

Inspired by the roaring crowd, Kosnic shone on the pitch and said that afterwards he was approached by Hajduk to join the elite Croatian club.

But, luck was not on his side -- four days later he fractured his leg in another match, an injury that he blames for ruining his career at the age of 25.

Although doctors advised Kosnic against ever playing again, less than a year later he was back on the pitch and has not stopped since.

Kosnic says that he has a frugal, mainly dairy-based, diet.

"I never cut out milk. Every day, a litre at least.

"I eat eggs, nothing much. When there is meat, I eat it, I eat what I have," he said.

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