Michael Sablon says Singapore can't worry about 11-0 U16 loss to Japan
Singapore football's technical director Michael Sablon insists that four or five years are needed for Singapore's youth teams to show improvements after dismal recent results at U15, U18 and U22 levels.
The U22 side failed to make the last four of the Southeast Asia (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur last month, losing to both Myanmar and Malaysia.
And Friday's 11-0 defeat to Japan in a qualification match for next year's AFC U16 championship followed a 6-1 thumping by Malaysia, suggesting that the standard among the country's young payers has plummeted.
At U15, U18 and U22 levels, there has been a combined total of just five victories in 19 competitive matches in 2017.
But Sablon believes that his blueprint for the Football Association Singapore (FAS) will eventually bear fruit -- with patience and the right support.
"It's normal that people react to bad results," Sablon told The New Paper. "But I have repeated this to my [age-group] coaches, in capital letters: Do not let results beat you.
"We need time for people to understand things we are doing, like the weakening of teams. Also, we are not focused on making good teams -- we are focused on making good players. At the end of the day, the final goal is to produce players for the [senior] national team."
The "weakening" of teams is the deliberate withdrawal of the best players at their own age group to allow them to play at a higher level.
Sablon can certainly claim to know what he is talking about, having played a key role in the development of the current generation of Belgian football talent, including Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne.
He has been with FAS since 2014, but there has yet to be tangible evidence to suggest that his plans are working effectively.
Although the recent performances of Singapore's finest young talent have not been giving too much hope for a brighter future, Sablon remains convinced that things will work out in the end.
"We have to realise we have a long way to go, because in the previous 10 years [before he arrived], there was no proper development plan in place," Sablon said.
"All the players in our age groups now, from U16 to U19, have fundamental weaknesses, both technically and mentally.
"If we don't take the proper steps for development, from grassroots to the 'golden age' [10 to 13 years old] to the national age-group teams... we will never have better players.
"But, if we continue our plan, in four or five years, we will have 18-year-old players who have gone through the whole system, and they will be better than the players we have now."
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