TECHNICAL DIRECTOR UNVEILS PLANS AIMED AT ENHANCING THE QUALITY OF PLAYERS
The man credited for the revamp of Belgian football details specific areas of focus aimed at creating a top-class training environment to develop generations of quality players for Singapore
SINGAPORE, 30 MAY 2016: The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) today unveiled specific plans aimed at creating a top-class training environment which will in turn facilitate the development of quality players for the National Team.
At a presentation titled “Shaping the Future of Singapore Football” earlier this morning, Technical Director Michel Sablon shared with more than 120 guests including Mr Krishna Ramachandra, Chairman of Tampines Rovers FC, Mr Lenard Pattiselanno, Sport Singapore’s Director of NSA Partnerships, and others from the football and education vocations, a holistic football development plan which encompasses 11 key areas and the detailed plans and programmes – some of which were implemented recently while other plans will be introduced within the next few months. The key areas include Coach Education, Grassroots, Development Philosophy, Elite Development and Physical Preparations.
Mr Sablon said: “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,” emphasised Mr Sablon.
On Coach Education, Mr Sablon shared that the Technical Department will enhance the quality of the coaching education programmes and introduce more stringent standards for the coaching courses so as to ensure the quality of coaches and instructors in Singapore.
A key initiative unveiled under “Coach Education” is the upcoming Singapore Coaching School, which is envisioned to produce a consistent pipeline of well-qualified and highly-skilled coaches to further enhance footballing standards in Singapore.
A member of the UEFA Jira Panel which had in 2015 revised the UEFA’s Coaching Convention to meet current requirements and reflect developments within coaching and coach education across Europe, Mr Sablon is also involved in the development of the new Asian Football Confederation (AFC) coaching syllabus which will be adopted by the Singapore Coaching School.
Courses at the School will be conducted by coach instructors from AFC under the direct supervision of Mr Sablon, Mr Richard Tardy (Head Coach, National Youth Teams) and Mr Mohamed Basir Ellaya Kutty (Head, Coach Education) so as to ensure that the highest standards are adhered to.
Mr Sablon and his team will also implement a set of structured coaching eligibility criterion with more stringent standards that would be applied to all local coaches. Coaches who have successfully completed the syllabus will be awarded official certification by the Singapore Coaching School. More details will be announced later.
National striker Khairul Amri, who has played more 100 international matches for the country, is looking forward to the courses offered by the Singapore Coaching School. He said: “I hope to pursue a career in coaching in the future and I am delighted to know that Mr Sablon himself would be overseeing the courses offered at the School, which also awards AFC-accredited certification. It is another established platform for me to develop my technical abilities in coaching,” said Amri, who is also the captain of Garena Young Lions.
“The Singapore Coaching School is a terrific idea that will benefit coaches in Singapore in the long term. I have personally benefitted much by learning from Michel and Richard over the past one year – they are very open to sharing their vast world-class experience, and are very approachable,” said V. Selvaraj, Assistant Coach of the Garena Young Lions.
“It is my goal to coach overseas eventually as part of my education, so having this institution where I can learn from the very best will certainly help me to grow and expand my horizons as a young coach. I know it won’t be easy, but I will continue to work hard – I’m sure this School will help me develop further.”
Firdaus Kassim, 28, who attended the sharing session, is currently an assistant coach at Chainat FC in the Premier League of Thailand (PLT). He said: “The sharing session was very refreshing and the proposals are promising. I look forward to see these plans take shape in Singapore. As a young coach myself, the part on coach education resonates with me and I am pleased that the Technical Director has put in a lot of effort in making plans to develop coaches. If applicable, I am keen to come back to Singapore to take up the relevant courses with FAS. I am confident Mr Sablon’s plans will definitely help to raise the standards of Singapore football.”
In addition to the Singapore Coaching School, Mr Sablon and his team have also launched the Goalkeeper Academy of Singapore (GAS) with the aim of enhancing goalkeeping standards by adopting the latest coaching methods from Europe to train and educate young local goalkeepers aged between 10 and 16. The GAS sessions, which are held weekly, are conducted by FAS Goalkeeper Coach Frederic De Boever and have since trained 70 participants, with a target to reach 120 students by the end of the year.
Mr Irwan Hamid, father of Ilhan Faiq who has attended sessions conducted by the Goalkeeper Academy Singapore, welcomed the launch of the Academy.
“Goalkeepers today are no longer expected to merely make saves and stop goal-bound shots. Therefore, my son and I were excited when the FAS launched the Goalkeeper Academy Singapore earlier this year.
“With top-class goalkeeper coaches such as Guy Martens, whom I know is the man behind the rise of Belgium and Chelsea No. 1 Thibaut Courtois, and Frederic De Boever drafting the coaching manual, there is no reason why I would not bring my son to the sessions conducted every weekend. The training methodology is advanced and I understand that it is similar to the training methods used by teams in Europe.
“The goalkeeper is a key person who can make the difference, and I am confident that the GAS sessions – conducted by FAS Goalkeeper Coach and Instructor Frederic De Boever and his experienced team of dedicated goalkeeper coaches – will play a key role in developing the next generation of top goalkeepers for Singapore. Certainly, I hope my son will be one of them! As a parent, I'm truly thankful to FAS for this specialised programme which allows my son and other aspiring goalkeepers to learn the latest training methodology from quality coaches.”
Today, Mr Sablon also introduced the Elite Development Manual, an elite-performance training programme based on the highest international standards and which will focus on the development of players during the “Golden Age”. The enhanced scouting structure will ensure that promising youth players are identified at an early age to go through systematic training during their “Golden Age” of between 10 to 13 years.
Mr Mohamed Basir, the FAS Head for Coach Education who also served in a similar role at the AFC for a decade, will oversee the Junior Centres of Excellence (JCOE) and Club Centres of Excellence (COE) programmes with the assistance of Mr Idris Rashid and Mr Amin Nasir. His team will work closely with General Manager for Youth Development, Mr Varatha Rajan, to unearth talented players for the National Youth Teams.
Mr Sablon also shared that FAS will continue to place strong emphasis on grassroots football. One of the key programmes launched during the past one year is the FAS Grassroots Cubs Programme which aims to enable more primary school children (who are not in their school team) to enjoy and play football while learning, at the same time, life skills and character-building values.
Mdm Muliyati Kamis’s son is enrolled at the Serangoon Cubs Centre and said: “It is with much excitement that my kid attends the FAS Cubs Programme every weekend! Not only does it allow him to enjoy the sport he loves, he has also benefitted from the programme which is designed to imbue positive values such as discipline, respect and teamwork. The programme is also tailored such that it encourages active participation from the parents, and I have certainly benefitted from spending more time with my son through football!
“Kids in the Cubs Programme are at an important stage of their development, and I am very pleased that the FAS has introduced this programme with the goal of developing them with the right values – both in football and in life. Special thanks to the FAS team for their commitment and dedication, and I hope more Cubs Centres will be established to allow more kids to benefit from the wonderful programme!”
In addition to the FAS Grassroots Cubs Programme, the FAS Junior Centres of Excellence – which caters to kids aged between six and 12 – and other grassroots programmes are key components of our long-term strategy in increasing the participation rates as well as identifying, developing and preparing young players for progression to our elite player developmental pathway.
All core youth programmes organised by the FAS and its partners utilise the FAS Grassroots Manual, which was introduced by Mr Sablon last year. It contains drills and activities for children to develop their footballing skills, and emphasises fun in order to let them learn more effectively.
Mr Aleksandar Duric, the Principal of ActiveSG Football Academy which has adopted the FAS Grassroots Manual developed by Mr Sablon as its core syllabus, said: “I am confident the children at ActiveSG Football Academy will benefit from the FAS Grassroots Manual by Michel. It forms a good base for us to build a strong foundation for our kids as they learn to enjoy and better appreciate football. Michel has sound ideas on how to nurture children to meet their sporting potential. I believe the manual should become the blueprint for how the football academies in Singapore, public and private, should run their programmes. We will continue to work closely with FAS and Michel to raise the profile of the sport in the community by getting more people to play football.”
FAS has also introduced several grassroots programmes and events aimed at attracting more girls and women to football, including the launch of the FIFA “Live Your Goals” (LYG) campaign two weekends ago. Targeted at girls aged from six to 15 years old, the campaign aims to inspire and keep them interested in the game.
Parents who attended the sessions expressed their support for the new initiative and other recent programmes aimed at attracting more girls to the sport.
“I think the initiatives by FAS are great, particularly to give girls a chance to play football. There is a lot of pressure on the academic side and I think football as a sport gives them a chance to relax, and the physical exercise helps as well,” said Mr David Squires, who brought his seven-year-old daughter, Manushri, to the LYG event.
Mrs Evelyn Wu, who supports her two daughters’ active involvement in football, said: “Football helps to instil in our kids key values such as respect, discipline and team work, and I hope more parents will encourage their children to participate in the programmes and activities organised by the FAS.”
Mr Sablon also revealed that changes will be made to the youth football competitions calendar. Following discussions and consultations with key partners including the Ministry of Education, school competitions will run from January to June. There will be no COE competitions for Under-14s and below; instead, they will dedicate their time to training and strategically-planned friendly matches. COE competitions will kick off only in the second half of the year and will involve teams at the Under-15 age-group and above. Under the new synergised league structure, players will have more time for training and technical development, and also face less exposure to the risk of injuries and fatigue.
“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,” said Tampines Rovers FC Chairman Mr Krishna Ramachandra.
Agreeing with him, Warriors FC’s General Manager Mr Paul Poh said: “It is definitely a good and well-thought-out plan with a long-term vision. It helps us at Warriors Football Club to align the direction of our football development plans along with the national plan.”
Garena Young Lions midfielder Joshua Bernard Pereira, who underwent a training stint with French Ligue 1 side St Etienne earlier this year, is confident that the new development plan will produce more quality players who will be able to play in the top Asian leagues as well as Europe.
The winner of The New Paper-Dollah Kassim Award 2015 said: “Technically, we are not far behind the players I had trained with at St Etienne. However, they are stronger than us physically and mentally, including the ‘always want to win' mindset.
“Personally, I’ve experienced the positive changes and enhancements to our youth development programmes introduced by Mr Sablon and his team in recent months. These proposed changes are similar to what I experienced during my overseas attachment stints. Technically and tactically, the next generation of players in the JCOE and NFA setups will become better than previous batches of graduates.
Joshua added: “It is important that we strengthen our physical and mental capabilities and we are excited by the new programmes announced by Mr Sablon. We have a strong Football Science and Medicine Department led by Senior Physiotherapist Nurhafizah Abu Sujad, and the recent appointment of Coach Balder Berckmans, who has undergone attachment stints or worked at top clubs including Manchester City, KV Mechelen and Al Ahli Saudi FC, will strengthen ongoing efforts aimed at enhancing our physical capabilities.
“As players, we appreciate the hard work put in by the FAS management and technical team to provide a top-class training environment for us. We hope the key partners will also come forward and support us in the various areas. With their full support, we can raise our standards and become a strong team in Asian football.”
Calling on the key stakeholders to come on board and support the FAS, Mr Sablon said: “I remember sharing with the media a year ago that one of the key things about FAS which first impressed me was the professionalism, sincerity and passion of the FAS management. They were open in sharing with me the key challenges and constraints as well as their visionary plan in improving Singapore football.
“In fact, FAS General Secretary Winston Lee had been speaking to me for several years – with the intent of asking me to join the FAS. For some time, I was not able to give him a positive response as I was involved in several projects at FIFA and UEFA. In early 2015, I decided that it’s time I make a decision and I decided to take up a new challenge in Singapore.
“Since my appointment, I have received strong support from a very capable, committed and cohesive management team led by the knowledgeable and well-respected Winston Lee. I can feel the determination and perseverance of my management and colleagues in seeking to bring the standards of Singapore football to the level of say, Australia or Japan in the near future. This is certainly possible!
“However, we need everyone to come together and help us fulfil our potential! Like Belgium, this is a small country but with a bold vision. Let us come together and translate this vision into reality!”