Delhi Private School Dubai coach Naushad Ali freely admits revenge is at the forefront of his players’ minds as they aim for glory in the Emirates Islamic National School League Football tournament.
Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou school claimed both the under-14 and under-16 titles at the inaugural NSL tournament earlier this year, but the French school didn’t have things all their own way in the showpiece as they edged a nervy U-16 final 2-1 against DPS.
Ali’s charges secured passage into the knockouts this season thanks to 2-1 and 3-1 wins respectively over The Millennium School Dubai and Wellington International School at The Sevens on Saturday to easily claim top spot in Dubai Pool 3.
The tournament will now resume in January, but a burning desire to avenge their final defeat to champions and tournament favourites LFI burns inside them.
“Revenge is on the players’ minds, of course,” admitted coach Ali.
“It’s always there between any teams when one loses, it’s always there a little bit in the minds of the children. They are looking forward to taking their revenge.”
LFI booked their place in the next round thanks to two straightforward wins in the group stage, but Ali feels they might face more of a test to retain their crown this season.
“I still think LFI are the team to beat but there are other teams we are looking at,” said Ali.
“Last year Indian High School we beat and also TMS. I think Abu Dhabi Indian School from Abu Dhabi will also be a good team. I saw them play recently, they have good players and have a good chance.
“I think the tournament is maybe a bit more open this year, I think there are a few teams who can challenge LFI and give them a good fight.”
Rather than wallow in misery following defeat in January’s final – a game in which an own goal clinched victory for LFI – Ali insists his players have used the pain of defeat to fuel this season’s title charge.
“They are very determined this year. They want that trophy,” he added.
“They were so close last time. I think the experience of playing in the final last year will definitely help them. Some teams it might hurt their confidence, but getting to the final has given them a lot of confidence.
“It was a helpful experience, and this year we have topped the pool, scored lots of goals. Losing last year hasn’t hurt us, it’s helped in a good way. It was a good lesson for them. It taught them how to play as a team.
“LFI played total football and they had great players and played as a team, which our players learned from. Now we have to move forward.
“We have to get our trophy. Last year we were runners’ up in the U-16 and hopefully this year we are hoping for bigger things and the championship trophy.
DPS will be joined by their U-14 side in the knockouts this year after goal difference robbed them of a place in the finals in their debut campaign.
GEMS Our Own Indian School bounced back from a draw in their opening NSL game with DPS to claims back-to-back wins on Saturday – results that saw them progress into the knockout round in second place in Dubai Pool 3 behind DPS.
They began the day in style, beating Wellington International School 8-1 with Rixon Lobo netting a hat-trick. Tony Paul collected the man of the match award as he dished out three assists and also bagged a brace, while Sahil Faisal also netted twice, with Tom Joseph rounding off the scoring.
Joseph was to later play a crucial part in seeing his side qualify, netting both goals as GEMS beat The Millennium School Dubai 2-0 to book their passage.
Coach Pundalik Roogi is convinced his side can now triumph having sealed their place in the knockouts.
“They have got stronger as the season has gone on and I think we can get even stronger still in the knockouts,” said Roogi, who singled out goalscorers Lobo, Joseph, Paul and Faisal for praise, although he said his team’s real strength is their unity.
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