FAS technical director to step down for health and personal reasons less than 6 months after extending contract
SINGAPORE: The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said on Tuesday (Nov 9) that technical director Joseph Palatsides will leave the organisation at the end of the year, due to "health and personal reasons" brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement comes less than six months after the association announced in June that Mr Palatsides had signed an agreement to extend his contract for two years until 2023.
“The FAS places priority on all of its staff’s well-being, something that is even more important in this COVID-19 era. It is unfortunate that we have to part ways with Joseph, but we have to make this difficult decision given the circumstances," said FAS president Lim Kia Tong in a press release.
Mr Palatsides was appointed as the FAS technical director in May 2019 to oversee the development of football in Singapore.
During his tenure, Mr Palatsides "laid down the foundation" for "an aligned football philosophy" together with the national staff coaches, including Young Lions head coach Philippe Aw and national team head coach Tatsuma Yoshida, said Mr Lim.
"He also has helped enhance the development of the elite youth teams, grassroots and women’s football as well as further strengthening the youth development pathways and coaching structures," Mr Lim added.
The search for Mr Palatsides' replacement will commence "imminently" and the FAS will "carefully assess all potential candidates before making a decision for this vital position", the association said.
Mr Aw will be interim technical director during the search for a permanent replacement.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to have been part of this organisation and I thank the FAS Council and management for their support over the past two and half years," said Mr Palatsides.
"I am both sorry and disappointed that the current COVID-19 circumstances have resulted with me unfortunately having to make this very difficult decision to end this relationship prematurely, where being with my family at this juncture is of huge importance," the Australian said.
"I take heart by the fact that the team I am leaving behind in the FAS are dedicated and motivated individuals, who are capable themselves to continue the objective of elevating Singapore football,” added Mr Palatsides.
Speaking at a Zoom press conference on Tuesday, Mr Lim said that Mr Palatsides faced "overwhelming challenges" posed by the pandemic to find a job back home.
"We think that it is in the best interest of Singapore football to to let him go very reluctantly," he added.
Responding to questions about the renewal of contract, Mr Lim said that the FAS executive committee extended Mr Palatsides' contract on account of recommendation from Mr Lim as well as the general secretary.
"At the time of the renewal, we had a very confident and strong belief in Joe Palatsides in carrying out our philosophy left behind by (Michel) Sablon," said Mr Lim.
"We did ... personally have words with Joe Palatsides in order to try to convince him to stay back to look through all the philosophies including the project of UTR (Unleash The Roar) that he supported. But unfortunately we do understand and do appreciate the ... almost insurmountable challenges that he faced in terms of his health in going forward to want to play a continuing role in Singapore football."
Speaking at the press conference from Australia, Mr Palatsides declined to specify what the personal and health reasons were, but said that he had been "totally committed" to FAS and Singapore football.
Mr Palatsides took accumulated annual leave to visit his family in August.
"Being away from the family had an impact, there's no doubt about that. I was 16 months away from my family. It did make things difficult, but ... I was totally committed over that period of time to devote myself to FAS and Singapore football because I was committed to make Singapore football and develop Singapore football to a much better level," said Mr Palatsides.
"And I'd like to think that we have made the first steps into making this country a very strong football nation in the not-too-distant future. The personal, the health issues have been a bit ongoing, but I don't want to share that as you can well appreciate because that is from a personal standpoint."
Mr Palatsides added that his intention was to return to Singapore after taking leave, but that his plans were delayed due to health issues.
"I did accept the renewal, and then I was very honoured and privileged to have been offered that renewal and I had no intention of not returning to Singapore and I want that to be stated as well. Things did change in my time that I was here (in Australia). And those health issues I didn't mention escalated a bit and this is the reason for the delayed return that was put in place," he said.
"Unfortunately, if you're not 100 per cent capable to put plans in place, you will not succeed and Singapore deserves to have someone who will be there in 100 per cent condition," he added.
When he was unveiled in 2019, Mr Palatsides said that he wanted to revive the "sleeping giant" that was Singapore football.
In the announcement of Mr Palatsides' extension earlier this year, FAS had said then that he would play a key role in the Unleash The Roar project - a national plan to grow local football - where he would continue to work closely with all stakeholders to “galvanise the nation’s football ecosystem and improve the standards of Singapore football across all levels”.
Said Mr Lim: "I would like to assure the football fraternity that this setback will not impede the work that Joe has started on and has put in motion. We must forge on despite any changes in the personnel."