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Wanted: Thinking footballers for the Lions

SINGAPORE — An important piece in the plan to fix Singapore football was put in place today (July 21) with the appointment of Richard Tardy as head coach of all the national youth teams from under-18 and below.

Richard Tardy, head coach of the national youth teams. Photo: Wee Teck Hian

Richard Tardy, head coach of the national youth teams. Photo: Wee Teck Hian

SINGAPORE — An important piece in the plan to fix Singapore football was put in place today (July 21) with the appointment of Richard Tardy as head coach of all the national youth teams from under-18 and below.

The 65-year-old Frenchman, who has extensive experience coaching youth sides and worked with former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier in France’s triumph at the 1996 European Under-20 championships, has been contracted by The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for two years.

But the most impressive item on his resume is talent-spotting and helping to groom French footballer Zinedine Zidane, who went on to inspire the national team to World Cup victory in 1998.

Tardy’s job in Singapore is to work with the respective age-group coaches to implement technical director Michel Sablon’s blueprint to reverse the poor state of youth development, cited as a major cause of Singapore’s current football ills. Making the point that he shares the football philosophy of Sablon, the Frenchman served notice that the axe will fall on youth coaches who resist the new master plan.

“I am the boss of the youth national coaches,” said Tardy. “So they must think and do what I want. I must adapt the quality of the players and team, but I want to give them my philosophy of training and playing the game, and to talk to the players. If they are not okay with it, I will stay, not them.”

In an interview with TODAY earlier this month, Sablon, who was appointed to the FAS post in April, pointed out that young children playing football are under too much pressure to win. They are also playing too many matches and have no time to learn the basics of football.

Agreeing with Sablon, Tardy said the focus should be in building the mental toughness of the young players. The goal, he added, is to help them take the initiative to think and adapt to different situations that develop on the run of play rather than just following their coaches’ instructions.

“My job is not only to helping a team to win but to push players to take more responsibility and have their own answers to what happens on the field,” he said. “This way may take more time but it yields better results in the long run.”

Ultimately, players who make the national team must have three key qualities: Talent, intelligence, and motivation. He added: “We need to build the mental ability of our players when they are young, so that when they reach 18 or 20 it will be easier for them to think on what needs to be done to succeed on the pitch.”

Richard Tardy’s CV:

Professional coaching qualifications: UEFA Coaching Pro License and a Diploma of Youth Coaches

1979-1997: Assistant coach of French national youth teams

1997: Technical director of Morocco Youth Academy

2002-2003: Lebanon head coach

2011: Rwanda technical director where he helped U-17 team qualify for 2011 Youth World Cup.

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