Football: Airtel Cup final-Côte d’Or claim St Michel’s scalp to go into history books


Captain Steve Esther accepts the cup from Minister Meriton and Airtel managing director Vikram Sinha

Côte d’Or won 1-0 at Stad Linite amid jubilant scenes by their supporters who had travelled all the way from Praslin. The victory reverberated on Praslin as it was the first time a team from the country’s second biggest island had won a major silverware in local football.

At Stad Linite, the Côte d’Or supporters in their orange outfit had added colour and ambiance to this grand final watched by top government officials, namely ministers Vincent Meriton and Mitcy Larue, a former member of the National Assembly from Praslin, as well as sports officials and staff of Airtel – the sponsor.

The odds were stacked against Côte d’Or who were missing star Malagasy midfielder Jean Tigana and Seychelles national team defender Jones Joubert through suspension as they faced the might of St Michel.

St Michel therefore started in bullish fashion as they tried to impose their play on Côte d’Or and had a good chance as early as the fourth minute from Henny Dufresne’s through ball to Malagasy Jean Del’Or Tsaralaza who raced clear but his shot got stuck under goalkeeper Kitson Cécile’s body as the Praslin team rode their luck.

St Michel continued to pour forward and in the eighth minute, Gervais Waye-Hive centred in Côte d’Or’s penalty area. The ball came off Tsaralaza’s head and dropped invitingly to captain Don Anacoura but he volleyed wide.

Three minutes later, St Michel put in a good passing movement involving Dufresne, Tsaralaza and Nelson Laurence before captain Anacoura went on goal but Melvin Uranie produced a superb last-ditch tackle to clear the danger.

Côte d’Or weathered the storm and responded in the 14th minute as Malagasy Patrick Ramsamimanana did well to skip past Julio Denousse, who had started at right back, to cross to colleague Nicolas Simouri in the penalty area but he shot weakly at goalkeeper Nelson Sopha to waste a good scoring opportunity.

After a bright start, the match transcended into a cat and mouse game as the two teams tried to cancel each other out.

The only noteworthy action occurred in the 42nd minute when Côte d’Or almost broke the deadlock as Malagasy Patrick curled in a 25-metre free-kick which grazed the post with goalkeeper Sopha flat footed and unable to move as the first half ended in a stalemate.

St Michel again started strongly in the second period and in the 47th minute, Tsaralaza picked out Waye-Hive with a cross which he headed goalwards but Côte d’Or’s Malagasy Mazinot Valentin cleared on the goal-line.

Côte d’Or suffered a blow in the 48th minute as Malagasy striker Simouri had to be pulled off as he fell ill with dizziness and coach Ahmed Abdou had to send on Paul Suzette.

On the hour mark, St Michel’s Leeroy Corallie shot straight at goalkeeper Cécile when he was sent clean through by captain Anacoura.

Seconds later at the other end, Collin Esther let fly a 30-metre cracker which flew inches wide of goalkeeper Sopha’s goal.

St Michel made two substitutions as the match progressed, bringing on Marcus Labiche and minutes later Alex Nibourette for Waye-Hive and Corallie respectively as they tried to bring more speed to their attack.

However, it was Côte d’Or who grew in stature as the match unfolded and in the 74th minute, the Praslin side were unlucky not to break the deadlock after a mêlée in the St Michel penalty area.

Dean Suzette fired a loose ball which came off the post in a crowded penalty area. Marlon Sophola pounced on the rebound to shoot low and the ball looked destined to roll into the far corner until goalkeeper Sopha produced a world-class save as he dived low and pushed the ball into corner.

Goalkeeper Sopha, though, was helpless in the 76th minute as Malagasy Patrick curled in a beauty from 30 metres out from a difficult angle and the ball dipped over the St Michel custodian and into the net for a sensational 1-0 lead for the Praslin team, sending their supporters and players in raptures.

Cote d'Or supporters bringing their support to the players on the pitch

As St Michel poured forward, they almost conceded a second goal in the 77th minute from a counter-attack as Suzette bore on goal and went down under Nigel Freminot’s tackle. As the Côte d’Or camp awaited a penalty, referee Gonzague Boniface, who had a good game with his assistants Farid Folette and Steve Marie, waved play on.

St Michel’s best chance to level matters fell to substitute Wilnes Brutus with his first touch as he raced onto a threaded pass and his cross beat goalkeeper Cécile at the near post and rolled agonisingly on the goal-line but there was no one close to tap into the unguarded net.

St Michel huffed and puffed but Côte d’Or packed their defence and defended well as they were not to be denied their moment of glory.

At the final whistle, the Côte d’Or players and supporters celebrated wildly as they created history for their island and it was really a wonderful achievement for this team who were only promoted to the first division in 2011. This good result is to be attributed to the devotion of manager Robert Payet and the wonderful work of Malagasy coach Ahmed Abdou.

Cups and medals were presented to the teams by Airtel managing director Vikram Sinha as well as ministers Meriton and Larue and the biggest moment was when Côte d’Or’s captain Steve Esther received the cup from Mr Sinha to cap a well deserved win.


‘A proud moment,’ says Malagasy coach Abdou

CELEBRATION TIME … Airtel Cup winners Côte d’Or

Côte d’Or Malagasy coach Ahmed Abdou has described his team’ Airtel Cup win as “a proud moment.”
Speaking to Sports Nation, he said his team did not play well in the first half as they tried to contain St Michel who wanted an early goal.

“We were rather cautious in the first half but improved and were more offensive in the second half. Today is a proud moment for me and my family and children for what I have achieved for the people of Praslin. It is the first time a Praslin team have achieved such a feat and all this is due to a lot of sacrifices and hard work,” said coach Abdou.

Manager Robert Payet has dedicated this triumph to all Praslinois.
“It was a tough match as we were under pressure for long periods, but we knew that this was our chance. It was now or never and we grabbed the opportunity. This is a big achievement for my team and I dedicate this title to all Praslinois. We have had a wonderful cup run as we have stayed unbeaten in 10 matches including the final,” said manager Payet.


The Airtel Cup winners

2003: La Passe
2004: St Michel
2005: Red Star
2006: Red Star
2007: Anse Reunion
2008: St Michel
2009: St Michel
2010: St Michel
2011: St Michel
2012: Côte d’Or

R. J-L.