Sablon's masterplan: Improved players and persons
Sablon's main thrust in masterplan to take football forward
On Monday, Michel Sablon spent almost three hours on a stage at a ballroom in Fullerton Hotel explaining how he planned to take Singapore football forward.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director is a man who eats, breathes and sleeps football, and he could have probably gone on explaining the national body's youth development blueprint for many more hours.
The 68-year-old Belgian (above), who is acclaimed for the masterplan that turned his nation into one of the top footballing sides in the world, knows he might have been a tad draggy at the Fullerton.
"I had feedback from my wife, she is very critical... She says it was too long," Sablon said, sheepishly.
But, as he told The New Paper in a one-on-one interview at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday afternoon, Belgium's football revolution also began with a three-hour presentation, one evening in September 2006.
That's where the similarities stop, though.
Insisting a "cut and paste" job will not succeed in Singapore, Sablon, who was appointed technical director here in April last year on a two-year contract, said his FAS masterplan was created with one guiding principle in mind.
"When I was thinking about this plan, the (one question) through everything was "will this make better players and better persons?" he said.
"Before I sign an invoice, I ask myself that question.
"This is also what people working in the technical department (of FAS)... must think about."
Sablon's Singapore blueprint is broken down into 11 components and includes an overall development philosophy, coaching education, a revamp of schools and Centre of Excellence competitions, and specialised goalkeeper development, among others.
He presented the components in a 4-3-3 formation, which he says is the tactical system Singapore's national teams will use.
He clarified, however, that the senior national team, under newly appointed Lions coach V Sundramoorthy, will not be forced to play in any particular system or style.
"We are working for the national team," said Sablon.
"Everything we want to do is to improve players in a few years' time, so we have a better national team.
"Sundram is the coach and, for him, it's important to have a good performance and win games.
"For youth teams, it's a totally different story but, for the national team, you are evaluated on results. No other way.
"So there is no obligation or request whatsoever for Sundram to play a certain style."
Praising Sundram for being "very open for any information and knowledge", the Belgian also said the 50-year-old former Singapore star striker would be given "100 per cent support".
Sablon's critics have pointed to him that bringing in five French and Belgian staff, such as head of youth national teams Richard Tardy and new fitness supremo Balder Berckmans, was a way for him to surround himself with familiar faces.
But the technical director quashes this theory, saying he did not know any of the FAS' foreign hires before arriving in Singapore.
"The only criterion is quality," said Sablon. "I could have taken one of the head coaches of a Belgian national youth team. But I didn't do it.
"In Richard's case, we needed someone who is a well-developed, high-level coach, and we know the French and Spanish schools of coaching are of a very high quality.
"I spoke to my many friends in France and described the job description and they all told me: (Tardy) is your man."
Adding that the reason for bringing in experienced foreign experts was to "bridge a gap", Sablon also pointed to how all 24 coaches running FAS' Junior Centre of Excellence centres are young, local coaches.
And the man overseeing their implementation of the FAS' football masterplan, Basir Ellaya Kutty, was once the Asian Football Confederation's acting technical director, and he is also a local.
Sablon also called again on all stakeholders to come together in full support for the FAS and its vision.
"It will be a big jump forward if we get (the support)," he said.
"You look at Jamaica, a country of 2.7 million people, which has four top sprinters in the world. Why?
"Because there is a sporting mindset and the government is pushing and helping however it can.
"That's what we need in Singapore.
"For example, we need a National Training Centre, so we can organise and do so much more... From 7am to 10pm, every day.
"But for now, with some of our projects, you will see the effects in a shorter time, Some will take longer."