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FAS launches first chapter to get more kids to play football

SINGAPORE — The first chapter of the blueprint to transform Singapore football was launched by The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) today (Aug 13), and the grassroots plan conceived by technical director Michel Sablon will see more children from as young as six years old learning to play and enjoy the sport.

FAS Technical Director, Michel Sablon Media launched an updated Grassroots manual for the FAS Cubs Programme today (Aug 13). Photo: Ernest Chua.

FAS Technical Director, Michel Sablon Media launched an updated Grassroots manual for the FAS Cubs Programme today (Aug 13). Photo: Ernest Chua.

SINGAPORE — The first chapter of the blueprint to transform Singapore football was launched by The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) today (Aug 13), and the grassroots plan conceived by technical director Michel Sablon will see more children from as young as six years old learning to play and enjoy the sport.

The national sports association will approach the Ministry of Education to introduce the new system in primary schools, and they have met with the People’s Association (PA) to implement this in the 28 centres across the island that run the PA Children’s Football Programme.

“Our request is to be able to use the PA’s 28 pitches to get the support of the volunteers and people managing the PAs,” said Mr Sablon in the media launch of the FAS Grassroots Manual at Jalan Besar Stadium today.

“We have an agreement in principle with the PA to use their pitches during the weekends, which is a huge help for us.

“When you compare the objectives of the PA and the FAS for children of this age group, they are approximately the same, which is to develop, educate and give them values.”

Mr Sablon, 67, is widely credited with the revamp of Belgian football. Under Mr Sablon, the Belgian national team’s FIFA ranking leapfrogged from a low of No 66 six years ago to its current No 2 position.

The 187-page grassroots manual for teaching six- to nine-year-olds serves to instruct teachers, educators and coaches on how to encourage children at a young age to play the sport. The development plan has been implemented since July 5 at the FAS’ five grassroots centres at Queensway and Bowen secondary schools, Sembawang and Admiralty primary schools and Serangoon Stadium.

A manual to teach technical skills to the next group, for those in the 10- to 13-year-old age bracket that Sablon calls the “golden age”, will be launched in the coming weeks. The long-term objective is to produce quality players for the national teams that can compete with the best sides in Asia.

In May, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said a key problem with the sport in Singapore is that not enough children in schools were playing football.

Mr Sablon was hired in April by the FAS to chart a path to lift Singapore football, which had a string of disappointments in the last eight months. These included failing to defend the AFF Suzuki Cup and a disastrous campaign at the SEA Games two months ago.

It will take years to reboot Singapore football, Sablon cautioned, but the transformation must start at the grassroots level.

Last month, he told TODAY that the way football is played and coached in schools is wrong, as children were made to play football like adults and were under too much pressure to win.

With the newly-released manual, Mr Sablon said the first step is to give all children the opportunity to play football, and the tie-ups with the PA and schools will help accomplish this.

But he stressed that the focus for young children is to allow them to have fun playing the game.

“When you give a ball to children they run and kick the ball, but they don’t play football,” added Sablon.  “This is because they are too young. So we have to teach them to look for space, their teammates, opponents and how to evaluate the game. They have to have fun and this is the most important thing at their age.”

Manuals for the 10- to 13-year-olds and the “Elite Youths” teams will be launched later and he said the vision is to prepare the next generation of Singapore footballers to play offensive football.

“It does not matter if it is 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 or other combinations, this is not the issue. The issue is the mindset. The players must go onto the pitch with confidence to play well and try to win the game.

“In order to achieve this, we start from the base, which is the grassroots,” he added.

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