With LFI Pompidou looking to retain their Under 14’s Emirates Islamic National School League Football title the soccer action at the Sevens Stadium Dubai was non stop.
Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou confirmed their status as Emirates Islamic National School League Football royalty as they retained both their Under-14s and U-16s titles.
Frederic Deswarte’s team brushed aside tournament debutants Al Ain Juniors 6-2 in the U-16s 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-14s 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-16s final, victory was particularly memorable. Chanin Hamdaoui and Tom Kassis cemented their reputations as boys 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 act as he took away the player-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 player 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. 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.”
And LFI forward Chanin Hamdaoui won the final MVP for the second year in a row after a starring role in LFI's 6-2 win, scoring two goals pic.twitter.com/EtBsuR0gi9— Matt Jones (@MattJones360) February 4, 2017
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 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 materialise as the defending champions went ahead inside the first minute through captain Thomas Rousse’s opener.
Hedi 'the human wall' Hbaieb rightly earned the U14 Golden Glove award for the season. The LFI stopper was outstanding throughout pic.twitter.com/DDuupICChQ— Matt Jones (@MattJones360) February 4, 2017
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 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 event, in which Al Ain came from a goal down to triumph 2-1 over GEMS Our Own Indian School in extra time.
LFI's Adam Germouni was named U14 MVP for the entire season pic.twitter.com/OIv1nzvP3x— Matt Jones (@MattJones360) February 4, 2017
Victorious Lycee Francais International Georges Pompidou coach Fred Deswarte revealed that if there is a success to the French school’s success it is there commitment to hard work.
LFI claimed back to back wins in the Emirates Islamic National School League Football Under-14 and Under-16 competitions at The Sevens on Saturday, and their head coach revealed their continued stranglehold on the competition has a lot to do with the time they have spent together.
“I don’t know if there is a secret to success but in every team, in all sports it’s coming from hard work,” he said of his his U-16 side after they beat Al Ain Juniors 6-2 in the final, having earlier watched his U-14 side retain their title with a 4-1 victory against Wellington International School.
“This generation has been working together for six years now. Training together two-three times a week for six years so maybe the secret is coming from hard work and spending time with each other.
“It’s a team with big ambitions and working well together and when we score a goal, the whole team celebrates. It means a lot to all 12 players.”
Although the U-16s have been together for a long time, the U-14s had nearly an entirely new roster for 2016/17, with sublime goalkeeper Hedi Hbaieb the heartbeat of their triumph.
Although free-flowing going forward, LFI are far from flawless defensively, but even when the back line is breached, opposing teams have to get past a particularly talented and determined last line of defence.
Hbaieb was called upon to save from Lewis Lee and Sarthak Suri in the final with LFI 3-0 ahead at half time thanks to man of the match Lyes Messaoudi’s hat-trick.
Suri netted to give Wellington a glimmer of hope but Adam Germouni restored LFI’s lead almost immediately to seal successive triumphs.
“I think the second title is better because you have to work hard and play hard, because every game is like a cup game,” added Deswarte.
“I think it was good for them to lose a game in the group stage because it showed them that one day, if we are not 100 per cent, we can lose this competition.”
LFI had come through their semi-final earlier in the day with a 1-0 win against Al Ain’s Our Own English High School, a game in which Hbaieb was again in fine form.
Wellington had gone behind to NIMS Sharjah in their last four clash but fought back with Malek Abdelnaser’s brace and one for Mahmoud Wahbeh sending them through.