SINGAPORE - Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director Michel Sablon will leave the national football body at the end of the year, the association's president Lim Kia Tong announced on Thursday (Oct 18).
Lim said the decision was made after "several discussions" with the 71-year-old Belgian, who has been credited with developing the blueprint that produced his country's "golden generation" of players like Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.
Sablon, who will leave the FAS on Dec 31, joined the association in April 2015 on an initial two-year contract. This was extended in March last year for another two years.
Despite the premature departure, Lim described Sablon as an "architect" who has successfully produced a plan which the next technical director, likely to be appointed before year-end, can refer to.
"He has accomplished what he has been engaged for... He has impressed with his programme," said Lim, who added the FAS would "seriously consider a local" as Sablon's successor.
Asked why he is stepping down four months early, Sablon said he did not want to disrupt the "new team" when it begins work - the local football season usually begins in February or March every year.
"When a coach is sacked, it is usually because he signed for too long... I don't want this," he said, tongue in cheek.
Despite the calm nature of yesterday's press conference, it has not been all smooth sailing for Sablon. In September last year, he voiced his frustration at how the FAS top brass did not publicly show support for his plans.
He had unveiled an 11-point youth development blueprint in May 2016, and had wanted to update the public on its progress. He finally got the opportunity yesterday and called the presentation his "legacy" for Singapore football.
Sablon was also affected by the departure of key members of the team he had put in place to carry out his plan.
His fellow Belgian and fitness coach Balder Berckmans left to join Australian club Central Coast Mariners, while Frenchman Richard Tardy, who was head of national youth teams, left at the end of his two-year contract in March.
He was followed by Frederic de Boever, the Belgian in charge of the goalkeeping academy of Singapore, and then Singaporean Basir Ellaya Kutty, who was in charge of coaches' education.
The roles of Berckmans and de Boever have been taken up by Noh Rahman and Rameshpal Singh respectively.
The roles of Tardy and Basir have been combined into one, performed by former national coach Vincent Subramaniam, who was appointed FAS' coaching instructor in February.
On his public criticism of FAS management last year, and whether there was enough support for his plans, Sablon said: "I have been married for many years, and there is always tension (in the marriage) too.
"Of course, in that moment I did not feel enough support. But that was a reaction, we spoke about it, and rectified it."
Lim noted that Sablon is a consultant for world football governing body Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation, and said that the FAS may invite him to visit Singapore annually to share ideas with local coaches and assess the implementation of his programme