SINGAPORE: The Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) technical director Michel Sablon will step down on Dec 31, the president of the national football body Lim Kia Tong said on Thursday (Oct 18).
Speaking at a press conference at the Jalan Besar Stadium, Mr Lim thanked Mr Sablon for his “relentless efforts” in developing Singapore football.
“He has put in place various programmes and given great guidance to our coaches, to develop their capabilities such that they can now operate at a far higher level than before,” he added.
Mr Sablon's contract was due to expire in March 2019, but according to Mr Lim, a mutual decision was made to end it early.
When asked why the contract was not extended, Mr Lim said the Belgian was hired because of his expertise and to put in place a structure for youth development.
"An expert like him cannot be staying for years to carry out his own structures, so he’s the architect of the structure, and it's for the subsequent people to maintain the structure and carry forward his programmes," he added.
Mr Lim said that FAS could announce a replacement before the end of the year, and that the potential appointment is likely to be a Singaporean.
Mr Sablon said he will not be staying till the end of his contract because he wants to ensure his successor is in place before the start of the new footballing season.
"The next season is starting in January, and it's better that the new (technical director) takes over from the beginning of next season ... The new team will have to take responsibility for the whole season."
Mr Sablon is widely acclaimed for overseeing the rise of a bumper crop of Belgian stars such as Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard, who are currently playing in the English Premier League.
The trio was part of the Belgian national team that finished third in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The Singapore men's national team slumped to its lowest FIFA ranking during Mr Sablon's tenure, but Mr Lim said it would be wrong to pin the blame on the Belgian.
"Youth development requires time," said Mr Lim.
"Now if you look at the Belgian golden generation, then you will realise that they have developed for 10 years. And if you look at England, the youth development has quietly been carried out for over 15 years.
"So in reality, you cannot expect Sablon to (produce results) within, say, three years.
"But of course, I think in time to come (we will see results). Perhaps in less than 10 years, if we are better than Belgium, or in less than 15 years, if we are better than England. Within three years, if you want to see the product (of his work), it's not a good measure."
Mr Sablon joined the FAS in April 2015 and, four months later, came up with a 187-page grassroots football manual targeted at children aged six to nine.
In May 2016, he followed that up with a blueprint that aims to develop a "Singaporean style of play", defined as "fast-passing offensive football based on a winning spirit".
Mr Sablon expressed hope that FAS would continue his work in Singapore’s youth football.
“I have faith that with their leadership, as well as with the full support of all stakeholders, the plans which I have put in place will produce the results we desire in time to come,” he said.