Sablon's development blueprint to lift Singapore football
Belgian guru unveils development blueprint to steer Singapore football to new heights
Before he presented the blueprint designed to change the Singapore football landscape yesterday at the Fullerton Hotel, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director Michel Sablon decided to share a quote with the gathered media and guests.
Borrowing a phrase from the late economist John Maynard Keynes, he said: "The real difficulty is not in developing new ideas, but escaping from the old ones."
The 68-year-old Belgian (above), acclaimed for developing the plan that turned his country into one of the top footballing sides in the world, is confident of repeating the trick with Singapore.
Yesterday, Sablon shared his vision in a two-hour presentation to stakeholders that included FAS president Zainudin Nordin, new national head coach V Sundramoorthy, coaches of national and club youth teams, as well as schools and grassroots coaches.
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 11 components in a 4-3-3 formation, which he says is the tactical system Singapore's national teams will use.
Sablon, who was appointed in April 2015 on a two-year contract, is charged to take local football to the next level.
He told TNP in an exclusive interview last October that he felt Singapore could compete with Asia's best in five years.
When asked if local football's perennial hurdles - like the focus on academic pursuits and National Service - have tempered his hopes over the last year, he said: "It's not my nature to lower my expectations... I'm more confident now.
"When I came here, I was perhaps too fast to make a few steps, now I have to go back one or two steps. But it's okay.
"If the quality (of staff) is there, if every step and every phase we obtain the quality we want, that's good."
Sablon's plan was generally well-received by those who attended his presentation.
Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra said: "It was an extremely detailed and well thought-out plan which not only appeared to have covered the important aspects, but also had a simplicity to the execution methodology.
"We are blessed to have a visionary like Mr Sablon who is able to distil the complexities into workable strategies."
Former national midfielder Nasaruddin Jalil, who has been coaching youth and S.League teams for almost 20 years and has worked under previous European technical directors like Jan Poulsen (Denmark, 1999 to 2003) and Slobodan Pavkovic (Serbia, 2008 to 2014), called for support of the new blueprint.
"Compared to those of previous technical directors, this plan is more focused on developing players at a really young age," said Nasaruddin.
"It's very comprehensive and, if all areas of (Sablon's) plan can be implemented right, Singapore football can go somewhere, definitely.
"But that will be the biggest challenge - implementing it - and all stakeholders need to come together to support the plan."
Sablon is pleased with the support he has received from colleagues and stakeholders thus far.
"What strikes me is the passion and motivation of all the staff working here," he said.
"Also, Winston (Lee, FAS general secretary), the FAS president (Zainudin Nordin). They have decided we have to go in the (right) direction, and that helps me.
"For sure, we are going in a good direction. And for sure, in some areas, we've already made good progress."
FAS TECHNICAL DIRECTOR MICHEL SABLON SAYS:
“While working to conceptualise this enhanced youth development structure, I challenged my colleagues and myself with one simple guiding principle: To ensure that this plan will leave a lasting legacy for Singapore football.
“We have worked long and hard to ensure that this is translated into our plans, and I believe that with enough support from all stakeholders, our blueprint will be able to make this a reality...
“Our aim is not simply to produce better players, but to create a world-class football development environment to nurture our talents.
“This means we will not simply aim to produce better players, but also augment the capabilities of our coaches, sports science and medicine professionals, scouts and more.”
- Coaches to guide young players in the spirit of "failing forward" - that is, encouraging them not to be afraid of making mistakes, so they can learn from it.
- Small-sided football games will be the way forward for young players, who will start playing 11-a-side matches only from the age of 13. During the "golden age" from 10 to 13, technical development will be the key focus.
SPORTS SCIENCE & MEDICINE
- Strengthen the FAS Football Science and Medicine department, and create tailor-made programmes for players in each age category, to develop physically stronger players who are less injury-prone.
TALENT-SCOUTING FOR NATIONAL TEAMS
- Clearly demarcate among FAS development sides like the National Football Academy and the Garena Young Lions, and the youth national teams.
- Implement a "revolving-door policy", so only the best represent the national teams.
- Push to fast-track talented players to older teams.
- The FAS Coach Education School will have stringent admission criteria. Course duration will be increased and content must be aligned with the Asian Football Confederation's revamped model, among others.
- The FAS Cubs programme, launched in January to increase participation at grassroots level and give children who are not in their respective school teams a chance to play regularly, currently reaches 3,600 children in 30 schools/centres.
- The aim is to expand the programme to 130 schools/centres, reaching 15,600 and widening the player pool by 2020.
- Coaching courses for grassroots coaches will also be enhanced.