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Stakeholders Hail Move to Extend Contracts of Sablon and Sundram

Tue, 14 Mar 2017

Stakeholders Hail Move to Extend Contracts of Sablon and Sundram

By Alvin Tham

Members of the sports fraternity here have hailed the announcement of the two-year extensions to the contracts of Technical Director Michel Sablon and National Coach V. Sundram Moorthy. The extensions were announced yesterday by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).

Mr Paul Poh, General Manager of Warriors FC, said: “Indeed, Sablon is one of the best technical personnel around the world today and it is definitely a wise decision by the FAS to extend his contract. Given his international recognition and standing today, Sablon would have no lack of offers had he decided to move on. That he decided to stay on – despite the challenges he has to grapple with, speaks volumes of his confidence not only to improve Singapore Football but also the level of trust he has in the management which he described as quality and supportive.”

Technical Director Sablon had earlier cited the FAS leadership and management as one of the reasons he was happy to extend his contract.

“One of FAS’ key strengths lies in its leadership and management team, which is visionary, knowledgeable, committed and commands great respect in the international football community, including FIFA and AFC. Apart from having committed and capable colleagues in the management team, I am also happy that top quality and experienced coaches, including Richard Tardy and Christophe Chaintreuil, and specialist coaches such as Frederic De Boever (Goalkeeping) and Balder Berckmans (Physical Education), have joined our Technical Department to provide value-add and expertise. Together with the likes of (Head of Coach Education) Mohamed Basir Ellaya Kutty, Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundram Moorthy, these coaches are part of our strong technical team which will play a key role in training our coaches and players,” said Mr Sablon.

“In fact, the observation about FAS having capable and visionary men at the management and technical levels was also highlighted by FIFA President Gianni Infantino three months ago. It is important to me that I’m working with a quality and fully supportive management team which shares the same vision and long-term targets. Therefore, I am very happy to have signed an extension to my contract which will also allow me to continue this long-term project which we started just two years ago.”

He added: “I am also thankful to the FAS Council and key stakeholders for their support, without which we would not have been able to implement changes and launch new programmes successfully. However, we will not rest on our laurels; instead, we will work even harder to convince other partners to come on board and join us on this journey. We are on the right track and I am confident that our youth teams will be able to compete with the likes of Japan and Australia within the next five years – but only if we receive the full support from the various groups of stakeholders.”

Coach Sundram similarly paid tribute to the support he has received: “Since my appointment last May, the FAS Council and Management have been extremely supportive and I’m deeply grateful for their trust and confidence in me. The success of any Football Association should not be restricted to the performance of the National Team alone. In this regard, the FAS has achieved significant progress and recognition in other key footballing areas such as coach education, grassroots, leadership and management, among others. It has been less than a year since I returned to the FAS setup and it’s heartening to see how they are constantly seeking to enhance the level of professionalism both on and off the pitch.

“As a Singaporean, it’s an honour to coach the National Team and I am very happy to have extended my contract. I am determined to lead our Lions to success during the AFC Asian Cup 2019 final-round qualifying campaign and I look forward to the support of our partners as we continue to develop and grow this sport to its full potential.”

Former Singapore international Lim Tong Hai welcomed the news that Coach Sundram’s contract would be extended, saying that the 10 months Coach Sundram has been in charge of the National Team is not enough to properly gauge performance, so it is fair for him to be given an additional two years for him to see through his plans.

“As someone who understands the local system, it will definitely be beneficial to have Sundram on board as the National Coach,” he stated.

Mr Lim was similarly bullish about Mr Sablon continuing his project here, attesting that the Technical Director has done a great deal in the past two years to align all the systems and working closely with many partners to ensure things fall into place.

“There is consistency and follow-up in the various projects – we cannot change Technical Directors regularly, because then there would not be a chance to see through the projects and put in place an ideology. Continuity is important – it is good to see that Michel's contract has been extended to see through the project he has started, and hopefully we will begin to see the efforts bear fruit in the next few years,” affirmed Mr Lim.

Indeed, continuity and stability were top on the minds of many, including another former Singapore international, Aleksandar Duric.

Said the Principal of the ActiveSG Football Academy (AFA): “It is great news that the contracts of both Michel and Sundram have been extended, because this will provide a lot of stability in the next two years. This can only be positive for Singapore football.

“I have been working closely with Michel over the past year, and I can see that the FAS management supports him fully, which is definitely a key factor for anyone to continue in his job. We agree on many aspects of youth development – I believe that with enough support and patience, we will start to see many good players and results in the coming years.”

The partnership between Mr Duric and Mr Sablon culminated in the merging of FAS’ Cubs Grassroots Programme with the AFA’s junior programme, announced on Sunday. The former striker also celebrated the extension of Coach Sundram’s contract, welcoming it as “great news”. A member of Singapore’s Suzuki Cup-winning squad in 2012, Duric added: “Everybody knows he is a solid coach and now he will be able to hopefully lead the National Team to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.”

Another common refrain heard amongst the stakeholders was the need for patience. Mr Poh recounted how the Warriors FC youth teams had the opportunity to play against the National Football Academy (NFA) teams over the past two years, and have found the matches increasingly difficult. He realised after observing the NFA training sessions that it was due to a strong focus on improving basic skills such as passing and controlling the ball, as well as fitness – while experience only comes with time, Mr Poh stressed that the focus on building the players’ basic footballing skills will bring them to the next level.

Echoing the point, Mr Muhammad Bin Abd Rahman – who has two sons in the FAS Cubs Grassroots programme –  said: “I am happy that a local coach has been given the chance to lead the National Team, and that Sundram's contract has been extended. He has proven himself as a coach over the years, but progress and success will take time.”

Mr La Ode Indra Karnain bin Jomain, whose three children are also in the Cubs programme, asserted: “My children have benefited from the Grassroots Coaching syllabus introduced by Mr Sablon, and enjoy their football tremendously. Focusing on having fun and instilling fundamental life skills such as determination, teamwork and discipline has helped them in other areas of their life as well. As a diehard Lions fan, I'm 100% behind Coach Sundram – I'm sure both he and Mr Sablon will get the full support of not just the FAS but the entire Singapore football community.”

Long-time Warriors FC fan Melvin Tan summed the sentiment up, saying: “I'm not surprised that FAS extended the contracts of Michel Sablon and V. Sundram Moorthy as the decision-makers always adopt a forward-looking approach and look at their long-term goals. Sablon is a prized signing – just look at how the foreign press and international officials are always associating him with the success of Belgium today. Sablon's decision to extend his stay in Singapore is testament to the level of confidence he has in local football, and I wish that FAS and Sablon will receive strong support to succeed.

“As for Sundram, the easy and popular move for FAS may have been to part ways after the Suzuki Cup episode but the extension sends a strong signal that FAS still believes in him. This can only inspire more local coaches to work hard and strive to become one of the best in the industry,” he concluded.


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