The Singapore Way: Sablon presents his footballing vision

Singapore’s new technical director Michel Sablon has presented his vision for grassroots football in the country, pledging to gradually develop a “Singapore way of playing”.

The highly-credentialed Sablon, who is credited with helping to guide his native Belgium all the way to No.2 in the FIFA World Rankings, was appointed to his new position in April this year.

He has spent the past four months since assessing Singaporean football at all levels, focusing particularly on youth.

It has culminated in his preparation of a 187-page ‘Grassroots Manual’ for ages six-to-nine that he presented to a packed media contingent at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday.

Sablon stressed the need for Singaporean children to have improved access to facilities and to learn teamwork and belief, while focusing on technical ability.

Admitting he is naturally adopting his experiences in Europe to the significant challenges ahead of him, Sablon is also adamant Singapore must gradually evolve their own unique, attacking style.

“I bring my experience (from Belgium) with me. That’s for sure,” he said. “But it’s important to know that we adapt ourselves to the culture of Singapore.

“We have to make a Singapore way of playing football and that will take time, it will take tears and whatever it is, but that’s the only way.”

Stating it took eight years for his vision to be fully realised in Belgium, Sablon says it will take “at least five or six years” to see some positive results in Singapore.

Starting with children from the age of six, he labelled the years between 10 and 13 as the “golden age” for children to accelerate their development and hone the skills that can translate to the national team.

He will also have a key focus on identifying many more qualified coaches and assisting in their development.

“The coaching courses need to be improved dramatically,” he declared.

The Belgian is aiming to eventually have up to 2,000 children playing football each weekend in Singapore.

“We need it. We need children playing football,” he said. “The grassroots idea (I’m presenting) isn’t new, but the vision is new.

“We want to develop a generation that play in a Singaporean style in five or six years. One of the main areas is technical ability. It needs to be much better.

“Our aim is to have a system that they’re comfortable with and they can develop themselves, with all the ability and talent they have.

”We will also play an offensive, attacking style.

One of the first challenges facing some of the country’s elite youth prospects is the AFC under-16 qualifying tournament, which is being held in Singapore early next month.

Sablon said it is an ideal opportunity to show the fans at home how local footballers are developing.

“We will show the Singaporeans that we can play football,” he said. “Will we win? Maybe not. But we’ll show we’re learning to play football.

”A football that can be identified as a Singaporean way of playing football.”

Photo credit: Zee Ko/FourFourTwo