FAS technical director Sablon says he needs time to change youth development here
Sablon calls for patience as he spells out viable blueprint for Singapore football
It was his blueprint that set Belgian football on a path to the World Cup quarter-finals last year, and now into third spot in the Fifa world rankings, but do not expect Michel Sablon, the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) newly-appointed technical director to work the same magic in the Republic - at least not so quickly.
His experience in Belgium - a country with 11 million inhabitants and 34 professional clubs - has given him a fair idea of what elements are important for a youth development system to produce talent.
But the 67-year-old, who is on a two-year contract with the FAS, knows he cannot take the Belgian plan wholesale, transplant it here, and expect it to work.
He called for patience yesterday, while he analyses the local football ecosystem, and then draws up a blueprint that can bring Singapore football to the next level.
"I'm not only here for the good weather and the thunderstorms, I am here to work hard. But in the first six months, don't expect too many things," he said, in his first speech to local media at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.
Sablon spelt out the ABC of his plan - a three-pronged approach, namely analysis and advancement of youth development systems; the betterment of players; and coaches' education.
"A lot of things must be examined before we make a decision - we must start with analysis... and we can't analyse things in one day, or even one week," he said.
"From Monday onwards we will contact the different groups, listen to them and then make a decision (on what can work in Singapore). Because that is the same vision coaches will use in clubs, and coaches use for coaches' education," he added, asserting that he will keep the positives, and work on weak points.
Questions such as what are the competitions here, and what form do they take; do these competitions fulfil the needs of players, coaches, parents and administrators; this is what Sablon will pore over, and he asserts it will be no walk in the park.
"These are small sentences, but behind them is a lot of work," said Sablon.
The Belgian will have at least one advantage - national coach Bernd Stange is a proponent of the quick pass-and-move game that Sablon also believes in.
"The short passing game is absolutely crucial to the future of football and all that is linked to that becomes important," said Sablon, pointing to fitness, technique and mental strength as key factors required to play such a game.
"At all ages we will start playing like this in youth teams.
"Stange is trying to implement this, and it;s not easy," he said, revealing that he has had an intellectual discourse with the German, conversations that could shape the plan Sablon will eventually draw up.
"The first step is (for everyone) to believe that the new road can get players to be better, and next is consensus, we need coaches to believe, coaches who are educated enough," said Sablon.
"It will take time and will to convince people... but if Singapore can become one of the leading countries in the world in just 50 years (of independence), there's no reason why it can't do the same in sport."
The short passing game is absolutely crucial to the future of football and all that is linked to that becomes important.
— Michel Sablon
Lions sink to 162nd on Fifa list
Singapore dropped nine spots in the Fifa ranking from 153rd to 162nd after a 2-0 loss to Thailand and a shock 2-2 draw with Guam last month.
The Lions are seventh in the South-east Asian region, behind Vietnam (125th), Philippines (139th), Thailand (142nd), Timor Leste (152nd), Myanmar (158th) and Indonesia (joint 159th). Singapore's lowest ranking was 165th from April to June 2013.
Belgium, on the other hand, are basking in their highest-ever ranking, as last year's World Cup quarter-finalists moved up one place into third on the strength of good run in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Marc Wilmot's Red Devils climbed to the top of their Euro qualifying Group B after Marouane Fellaini's goal earned them a 1-0 win over Israel 10 days ago.
Above them, the Fifa summit is unchanged, with world champions Germany on top and Argentina second.