The Under 19 Inter International Schools tournament, the most important football tournament of the year, has been a Holy Grail for our team, elusive but ever alluring. The disappointment of losing in the Semi-Finals two years running (last year on penalties) only made our players more determined to win it this year.
A comfortable victory in our opening game against a strong side from Asian International School gave the team’s confidence a real boost. The Captain, Jaah Ziyad, led from the front on the pitch, scoring a memorable hat-trick against Gateway College and the winning goals against both Lyceum International School and our main rivals in the group, Royal Institute, to help us qualify top of our group. With our poor record in previous Semi-Finals, the game against Alethea International School began nervously but two goals from Aron Rahim ensured we made it through to the Final fairly easily.

The final, held on October 3rd, was a truly memorable occasion. The whole school – students and staff – turned out to support the team, generating more noise than the famously vocal Royal Institute supporters and producing an electric atmosphere. After a goalless first half, our pressure paid off when Jang Pyo Hong opened the scoring from a corner. Royal Institute came back though with the first goal we had conceded in the tournament to take the game to penalties. Goalkeeper Yohann Sequeira emerged as the hero as Royal Institute failed to convert any of their penalties, and the celebrations could begin. Congratulations to Sandesh Mendis who was awarded the Golden Ball as man-of-the-match.

Our team has had a well-deserved reputation over the past few years for playing the best football of any school by virtue of an attractive passing game and attacking style, and fully deserved their success this year. What really stood out about the team was that every player looked comfortable on the ball and had the confidence to take their time, look up and beat the first man before passing, rather than just booting the ball away. Just as important was the way they conducted themselves, displaying real team spirit.

Six of the team (Pravan Mathew, Nathan Rahim, Khayyam Rasheed, Yohann Sequeira, Jaishnu Thiagarjah, Jaah Ziyad) are in the Upper 6th and have formed the nucleus of the squad for the last few years. Winning the tournament is a fitting reward for their consistent commitment to the football team over the years. They all set a positive example in terms of determination and sportsmanship and the younger players in the squad learnt a lot from their experience and maturity.

Pool Matches: Asian Won 5-0 (Khayyam 2, Aron, Hong, Jaah)
Gateway, Colombo Won 5-0 (Jaah 3, Khayyam, Sandesh)
Lyceum, Nugegoda Won 1-0 (Jaah)
Royal Institute Won 1-0 (Jaah)
Gateway, Kandy Won 8-0 (Khayyam 2, Aron, Hong, Nathan, Naveed, Sandesh, Takaru)

Semi-Final: Alethea Won 3-0 (Aron 2, Khayyam)

Final: Royal Institute Won 1-1 (Hong)
(Won 3-0 on penalties – Aron, Jaah, Sandesh)

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