NSL last 16 gets underway

Matt Jones - Editor 16:03 19/01/2017
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The Fujairah-based school romped to the top of their under-16 group with three wins from four, winning the Fujairah group ahead of fellow last 16 entrants Our Own English High School.

Jonathon Bateman’s side finished top thanks to their far superior goals scored record, bagging 14 in four games and only conceding three.

They face Dubai side GEMS New Millennium Al Khail at The Sevens on Saturday as the last 16 kicks off, with the winners proceeding to a possible clash with either GEMS Our Own Indian School or Delhi Private School Sharjah in the quarter-finals – which will also be played on Saturday.

They may be debutants this year, but that doesn’t mean they are there simply to make up the numbers.

“We definitely have aspirations of winning the title,” said Bateman.

“When you are playing a tournament in any sense you want to win it, so fingers crossed. I’ve seen enough from my team to suggest we can go far.

“We were very comfortable in the group stages, so we have lots of confidence. We know that the group stages are going to be against teams from across the UAE, so competition will be fierce, but they go in confident.”

Bateman bemoaned that he will have two or three players missing for Saturday with other tournament commitments, but he is right to have confidence as several players are tied to Arabain Gulf League outfit Dibba Al Fujairah.

“We have a few boys linked in with with local under-18 teams, like Dibba,but this has been a good opportunity for them to get involved with school tournaments.

“We have a few issues with two or three players unavailable, but it’s a chance for others to step up and take their chance.”

Coming from a background where extra-curricular activities are common, Englishman Bateman said the concept of the NSL tournament was alien to the school before he pushed for their entry into this year’s tournament.

Bateman added: “Everyone’s really excited. It’s not very often these kids get the chance to prove themselves in a school football tournament, there’s lots of opportunities with their clubs, but not school.

“But now, all  of the school is getting behind the team. At the start there was a bit of skepticism but from week one they’ve embraced it.

“ The school didn’t know about it before. One of my friends who teaches at Fujairah Private Academy told me about it and, coming from England where after school activities are big, you miss it here.

“But the kids wanted to get involved, they wanted to have fun, so it’s been a bonus getting through to the knockout stages.”

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