Former Manchester United and Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre was guest of honour at the Emirates Islamic National School League (NSL) Finals day in Dubai on Saturday.
The French star, who made 361 appearances in a nine-year spell at Old Trafford which yielded five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy, was on hand to inspire youngsters, present medals to the teams and select man of the matches from the U-14 and U-16 showpiece fixtures.
Silvestre watched LFI Georges Pompidou Dubai do the double in both age groups at Stadium UAE.
Full coverage of the 38-year-old's NSL visit in Sunday's Sport360.
Delhi Private School Dubai defen-der Sidhant Nayar didn’t mince his words when he said today’s Emirates Islamic NSL Football Under-16 semi-final clash with Indian High School will be a “grudge match”.
The two teams clash at The Sevens Stadium, with DPS looking to avenge a defeat to IHS in the group stages.
Both teams qualified for the knockout rounds from Dubai Pool 2, with only Ashwath Panicker’s goal separating the sides in their earlier encounter on October 31, 2015 as IHS won 1-0.
That helped IHS finish top of the pool, two points ahead of DPS, and Nayar admits he and his team-mates have not forgotten that defeat.
“We’re not looking to the final yet, all we’re concentrating on is the semi-final,” said Nayar, 16, who was his team’s man-of-the-match last Saturday as they claimed a thrilling 4-3 quarter-final victory against New Indian Model School Al Ain.
“We played as a team, gave 100 per cent and if we can continue like this I think we can go all the way.
“The next match is against IHS. We already lost to them in the group stages so we will be looking for revenge. It’s a grudge match.”
IHS progressed to the last four courtesy of a comfortable 2-0 win against Salman Farsi, a game in which talisman Garry Kurian found the back of the net once again, and he is dreaming of winning the tournament.
“It’s onto the semi-finals now and we’ll be working hard for this match,” insisted Kurian, who has six goals to his name in eight games.
“We will be trying harder and trying to meet the expectations of the coach, which is to win.
“He wants us to pass more as we dribble a bit too much and this game is about teamwork, so if we pass more we can win.
“Hopefully we can win the tournament, it is the main aim and we are trying.”
Tournament favourites Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou, meanwhile, take on Al Yasmina School in the other semi-final and the side from Abu Dhabi are confident they can topple the French international school, who won 6-1 against Sharjah’s Alkamal American School last week and have only conceded three goals in seven games.
Yasmina beat DPS Sharjah 2-1 in a thunderous and full-blooded encounter last week and coach Adam Hodson believes that passion will help drive his players on today.
I think (last week) has galvanised us. It’s a great win and coming from behind shows their commitment and I think it will be great for the semi-final,” he said.
“There’ll be a lot of passion and will and the boys will come together.”
LFI’s Youssef Gomaa was their standout man last week, gaining the man-of-the-match award after scoring two goals and also grabbing two assists, and he hopes his team’s spirit can help them hoist the NSL trophy aloft today.
He said: “The team played really well (last week), we were confident. We approached the game respecting our opponents and played really well.
“We played with spirit and we hope that spirit can carry us all the way to the final.”
The last eight fixtures featured stunning comebacks, Golden Goals and penalty shoot-outs in a dramatic day at 7he Sevens in Dubai.
The NSL Football semi finals and finals will be played on Saturday 6th February - click on nsl360.com for more information.