FAS technical director Sablon wants major reforms in youth development
Syllabus ready, fields secured, FAS technical director Sablon eyes major changes to youth development
He has spent his first four months on the job immersing himself in the local football ecosystem, studying its intricacies and mulling over critical changes at the base to help lift the sport.
The Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) grassroots programme is the first move of Michel Sablon, the man credited with sowing the seeds that revolutionised Belgian football.
And there is more to come from the FAS technical director, who was appointed in April.
While he is not pleased with some facets of the system here, he wants to tackle the long-standing issues surrounding schools football and the National Football Academy (NFA) next, along with the critical factor of quality coaching.
"It is a big thing for us, this agreement with the People's Association (PA), one problem (with training facilities) is no more.
"The next step is schools and national (youth) teams and we have to find a solution," he said, on the sidelines of the launch of his grassroots coaching manual and the Cubs programme at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.
"What we need is a change in the system."
The agreement with PA will allow the FAS to use schools and other venues for its Cubs programme, alleviating what has been a major bugbear in the past.
But this is just the beginning of more hard work.
"(School teams) are playing long balls, with no build up - they (young players) are not learning football," said Sablon, who also took issue with the fact that some school teams play three games in a week, hardly ideal for young players.
"I hope the minister will be able to help give school competitions the right values they need," said the 67-year-old, who has had conversations with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, with the aim of meeting with Ministry of Education officials to get to the root of the problem.
The FAS' National Football Academy (NFA) is also on Sablon's radar.
The Belgian is not comfortable with the current NFA system which sees a squad of about 20 assembled and kept together for the entire year. He will make moves to cast the net wider.
"These 20 players are selected, how? I'm not happy with the national (youth) teams and next year it will be a more open selection, not restricted to this number of players at the start of the year to the end of the year," said Sablon, who revealed that at least two players from the recently concluded schools' competition will soon be roped into the national set-up.
From next year, Sablon will implement a system that will see NFA teams brought together based on current form.
With Frenchman Richard Tardy already on board as FAS' head coach of national youth teams, Sablon is looking to improve the quality of coaching and, for that, he will meet officials from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Questions have been raised about the quality of coaching courses conducted by the Asian body, and Sablon is taking things into his own hands.
"The AFC conference is next week, and we will meet the coaching panel to improve the coaching course," he said, after having conducted two workshops for local coaches who will be part of his Cubs programme that will be officially launched tomorrow.
ALL LOCAL COACHES
"It will be difficult to have local coaches at the top of Singapore football (in the near future) but, in six or seven years, we want all coaches to be local. It will take hard work from the coaches, who must get out of their comfort zone," said Sablon, who called for more overseas experience for Singapore coaches.
He will have to wait at least a year to implement changes that will see S.League clubs play a bigger role in youth development.
"My proposal was to have all clubs have Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 teams, and all were in favour of it, but now the decision is that it will remain the same as this year," he said. "I'm not happy with this."
The current system, launched last February, sees only three clubs - Home United, Warriors FC and Balestier Khalsa - run Centres of Excellence, with each club having six squads, from the U-13s through to U-18s.
"It's a pity that the S.League is not changing to the system that we asked for," he said.
"It will delay (progress) a little, yes, but it gives me more time to focus on the grassroots."
Sign up for the Cubs Programme
The FAS Cubs Programme will be launched tomorrow at the Jalan Besar Stadium at 2.30pm and the public is welcome to attend the event.
Information on sign-ups for the programme is available on the FAS Cubs Facebook page and at the various PA centres. Parents can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The FAS Cubs grassroots centres charge $50 for a first-time sign-up fee (which includes a full set of playing kit) and, subsequently, $25 a month.
The price for sign-ups at the PA centres vary according to the constituencies. PAssion card members enjoy an annual fee of $45 for the programme while non-members pay $55.