Niort-Poitiers U18: supremacy through training

The summer break is coming to an end, most professional players are on vacation, and this Monday evening, after a final duel between the Blues and Croatia, the 2021-2022 season will bow out. But in the four corners of France, far from this League of Nations whose rules are as vague as the stakes, some youth teams are still playing their future in cleaver matches. Example in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, in the Bordeaux region, where the U18s of Chamois Niortais and Stade Poitevin crossed swords one last time, to win the Grail: a promotion to national U19s.

By Paul Citron, in Saint-André-de-Cubzac
Monday, June 13 Modified Monday, June 13 at 2:08 p.m.

The sky is blue, the breeze is light, the sun is high, the fans are taking to the shade, and at the 22e minute, the referee interrupts the game to allow the 22 players to hydrate. There’s no doubt that summer is on the way this Saturday, June 11 in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, for the New-Aquitaine U18 regional final between the Chamois Niortais and Stade Poitevin. After a season in the league where the two teams met twice, and well-negotiated play-off semi-finals respectively against Pau and Bergerac, this final on neutral ground pits the two big fish in their category against each other for the last time in the southwest. Behind this poster which smells good of Poitou-Charentes, a capital stake: to grab a place at the national level in U19 next season.

“We were told that having a national U19 team forced us to keep players who we knew for the most part could not aim higher. » Franck Azzopardi, director of the Niort training center

The national U19s, collateral damage of the pandemic in Niort

Much more than a simple rise in sporting terms, it is a status “which determines local supremacy, and which offers a certain guarantee of quality of training” , according to Franck Azzopardi. The Chamois training director, converted after his long career as a player, had watched helplessly as the club’s management decided, in 2020, to withdraw his team from the national U19 level. “It had been justified in two ways. First, on the economic level: we had barely come out of the first wave of Covid, and a team at this level comes at a costhe explains. It involves long trips, a trainer with at least a DES (higher state diploma). The second reason was more muddy. We were told that having a team of national U19s forced us to keep players who we knew for the most part could not aim higher. » Understand: players insufficiently endowed to claim to then evolve with the reserve group in National 3 and, eventually, in Ligue 2. But two years later, the situation – and the direction – changed, in Niort, and from the month of last September, the U18 team had only one idea in mind: to regain their place at the highest level in the last category of young people, to their delight. “When you are a club with a training center, it is the best formula: U17 and U19 nationals, N3, and the pros. There, there is a little too much difference between the regional U18s and the reserve, and that serves the kids. »

“This season has been tiring for everyone, we will be able to breathe and celebrate. On the other hand, I think I slammed after the second goal, I ran 40 meters! »
Johan Agnel, the coach of young Chamois

Cholismo, breakdown and seduction operation

For this, the favorites of Deux-Sèvres must still pass over the body of Stade Poitevin. Regional neighbor and serious rival among young people, the Dragons are determined to end their season in apotheosis, to reach the level that would allow them to become a new local anchor. The decor is set, the players enter under the bravos, and around the handrail flows the assistance. Pierre is there to encourage the Stadium, he who would be on the lawn as a central back, if he had not taken a yellow card synonymous with suspension during the semi-final. “I didn’t know that mattered!” If I had known, I wouldn’t have screwed up.” , loose the big booby, a bit frustrated. One thing is certain, he would not have been bored, since from the kick-off, it was Niort who appropriated the leather and put the Pictavian rearguard to the test. David, a former resident of Stade Poitevin who became Chamois, almost opened the scoring against his former teammates with a shot from the right that was too crushed. The rescues accumulate on the line of the Dragons; but they are nevertheless the ones who conclude a combination on a free kick to make Kevin De Bruyne pale, on one of their only incursions into Niort territory. At 1-0 at the break, the lesson is clear: the cholismo is still very much alive.

Same story after the locker room: Niort holds the leather and goes to the boarding, but Poitiers proudly resists. An effort bordering on heroism, when at the 75e minute of play, they are still in front of the mark, after being reduced to ten at the start of the second period. This is the moment chosen by Enzo, the left side of Niort, to put on his David Alaba costume and send a marvelous free kick into the Black and White bezel. The hope of carrying out the heist of the century fades in the heads of Poitiers, and evaporates for good, in the worst possible way, in the 90e when after a three-star scramble on a corner, a Niort defender emerges to laboriously push the swell behind the line. 2-1, final score. The supporters of the Chamois, that is to say the families of the players and the young people of the club who made the effort to come and encourage their elders, exult. Contract completed for Johan Agnel, the two-Sévrien coach with a Marseille accent. “From July 26, the rise in U19 Nat ‘, it was the objectivehe confirms, visibly relieved. I am very happy, this season has been tiring for everyone, we will be able to breathe and celebrate. On the other hand, I think I slammed after the second goal, I ran 40 meters! »

End of season? Not for everybody. For Franck Azzopardi, a new project has just started with this accession. “Now, the players, we will have to keep them. And for that, they need a contract proposal worthy of the name. This year, they are 18 years old, they are becoming independent, and we will have to offer them something interesting to keep them at the club. The level of the hen will be very high, next season, but that is not enough to make them stay. » This is precisely Enzo, one of the scorers of the afternoon, who approaches to take his leave. “Enzo, we’re having a video call on Monday with your father to discuss, OK? » The transfer window kicks off.

By Paul Citron, in Saint-André-de-Cubzac
All comments collected and photos by PC.

Leave a Comment