LFI retain title with 6-2 win over Al Ain Juniors

LFI claimed an NSL double-double as they retained their NSL U-14 and U-16 titles and reporter Matt Jones was their to see the finale of the second season of the competition.

Matt Jones
by Matt Jones
6th February 2017

article:6th February 2017

Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou confirmed their status as Emirates Islamic National School League Football royalty as they retained both their under-14 and under-16 titles.

Frederic Deswarte’s men brushed aside tournament debutants Al Ain Juniors 6-2 in the U-16 showpiece at The Sevens on Saturday, while their younger counterparts similarly met little resistence as they swept to a 4-1 win in the U-14 final against Wellington International School.

It capped a superb 2016/17 campaign as the French school rampaged to the double double, following on from their success in the inaugural NSL Football campaign 12 months ago.

For two of the goalscorers in the U-16 final, victory was particularly memorable. Chanin Hamdaoui and Tom Kassis cemented their reputations as men for the grandest stage as both netted having played pivotal roles a year ago.

Just as LFI repeated as champions, Hamdaoui reprised his role as star man as he took away the man of the match accolade for the second year in a row.

The 15-year-old, who scored in the 2015/16 showpiece, was at the core of LFI’s triumph, bagging a brace of both goals and assists while also working tirelessly for the cause.

“I stayed focused and just did what I had to and think about the victory,” said wideman Hamdaoui.

“To be man of the match in the final for the second year in a row, it’s good, I am happy. I’m so happy I have no words.

“I think this second win feels more special than the first. It’s always harder to win it the second time. We were the team everyone expects to win and if we lose everyone would be happy to beat the champions.

“Because of that the games were tougher. More teams knew about us and we lost too in the groups. It was hard to come back from that but the coach knew what to do and we came back stronger, and we saved our best performance for the final.

“We play very well together, we know each other, we are friends, we spend time together at the weekend, so we have a good spirit. And you can see this on the pitch.”

Team-mate Kassis, also 15, also got on the scoresheet, a year after he was the catalysts for the U-14s epic victory against Al Salef Sal Saleh Private School.

In a thrilling 2015/16 U-14s final, Kassis bagged a hat-trick, the third of which was a golden goal clincher in extra time that handed LFI victory.

He has gone from being the senior member of that squad to the “baby” of this year’s vintage, and he will still be eligible next season, and hopes he can be a treble champion.

“It’s special to score in two finals, incredible,” said Kassis, also 15.

“Last year I scored a hat-trick and this year I scored once. I’m as happy as I was last year. Last year it was an incredible game. We were leading then we were behind and I scored the golden goal in extra time.

“Last year I was the oldest, now I’m the youngest, I’m the baby. I will be back next year to win a third title, that would be really special. I hope I can do that.”

If the purists were hoping for an even contest it failed to materilaise as the defending champions went ahead inside the first minute through captain Thomas Rousse’s opener.

There was a moment of controversy when Al Ain’s Mohamed Sajid saw his effort ruled out for a foul on LFI goalkeeper Angelo Vitale. LFI took full advantage as Hamdaoui doubled the lead when he caught stopper Abdul Aziz out at his near post.

Another error from Aziz saw him spill Kassis’ shot into his net and even though Al Ain launched a spirited fightback in the second period, reducing the arrears to 3-1 and then 4-1 through Ahmed Ashraf and Mohamed Ayman, Hamdaoui and Rousse completed their braces while Ralph Charaf also netted to seal deserved back-to-back titles.

LFI sauntered into the final in similarly comfortable fashion, beating Our Own English High School Al Ain 4-0 in the semi-finals.

The other last four clash had been a titanic clash in which Al Ain came from a goal down to triumph 2-1 over GEMS Our Own Indian School in extra time.

Tom Joseph opened the scoring for GEMS and the writing looked on the wall when Sajid blasted his penalty wide. GEMS had plenty of chances to seal a date with LFI but twice hit the post. Sajid then atoned for his earlier miss when he rose to nod in Ashraf’s cross inside the final minute.

The drama wasn’t over and in the extra period, Sajid completed his personal see-saw of a game when he lashed in after a long punt up field with seconds remaining to send Al Ain through.

Sajid felt that herculean effort had drained his side.

“I think that game had taken it out of us both mentally and physically,” he said.

“I don’t think we had anything left after the way we reached the final. Everyone had prepared for that match first so it was difficult in the final.

“But it was our first time in the NSL and we are proud to have reached the final at the first attempt. We will be back again next year and we will try to win.”