The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) will continue to implement technical director Michel Sablon's youth development plan even after the Belgian leaves the association, president Lim Kia Tong stressed yesterday.
At a press conference at the Jalan Besar Stadium, Lim announced that Sablon would leave the association on Dec 31, four months before his contract is up.
Lim said the decision was made after "several months of discussions" with the 71-year-old, who has been credited for developing the blueprint that produced Belgium's "golden generation" of players like Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.
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.
Sablon joined the FAS in April 2015 on an initial two-year contract, tasked with creating a sustainable long-term system that would produce a steady stream of talented players for the national team. This was extended in March last year for another two years.
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.
MICHEL SABLON, FAS technical director, on his criticism of the management last year.
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 (see sidebar) 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.
His blueprint for Singapore
1 GRASSROOTS AND OUTREACH PROGRAMMES
The FAS has partnered schools and various bodies to conduct programmes and clinics in a bid to reach out to more young boys and girls.
2 JUNIOR CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE
Sablon stressed the importance of the "golden age" for development between 10 and 13, and has placed a focus on quality training for this age group.
3 SCHOOL AND COE COMPETITIONS
Restructured the COE competitions, and introduced smaller-sided matches for primary school competitions to encourage development of individual ability.
4 NATIONAL FOOTBALL ACADEMY
Renamed the FAS Football Academy (FFA) to separate them from national age-group teams, with a focus on improving players' attendance at training sessions.
5 NATIONAL YOUTH TEAMS
Player profiles have been created to allow coaches to grade and track individual players' ability and development.
6 WOMEN'S FOOTBALL
Four national teams - the U-14, U-16, U-19 and senior side - were established or re-established in 2015. The FAS received an award from the Asian Football Confederation in November last year.
7 PHYSICAL PREPARATION
A "master plan" was put in place early last year, with an increase in quantity and quality of fitness training for the various FFA teams. VO2 max tests, which measure aerobic endurance, are frequently conducted.
8 FOOTBALL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE
The FAS' sports science and medicine capabilities have been beefed up, and a nutrition booklet for FAS players in different age groups was also developed.
9 GOALKEEPER ACADEMY OF SINGAPORE
Started in 2016 to unearth more talent, 110 youth goalkeepers are now being trained by FAS weekly.
10 COACH EDUCATION
From Jan 1 next year, the FAS and National Registry of Coaches will jointly implement a licensing system to raise the standard of coaching across all levels.
11 SUPPORTING PROJECTS
Creation of a database of over 1,200 training sessions, and implemented a video management system to organise video content.
He was followed by Frederic de Boever, the Belgian in charge of the Goalkeeping Academy of Singapore, and then Singaporean Basir Ellaya Kutty, who handled coach education.
The roles of Berckmans and de Boever have been taken up by Noh Rahman and Rameshpal Singh.
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 the 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.