Additional video reporting by Ong Yong Jin, Nicholas Lim and Kenneth Long.
Etoile made history last night at Jurong East Stadium by winning the S.League. The first foreign team to win the S.League, Etoile, which means “star” in French, lifted the trophy after beating Albirex Niigata by 4-2.
Heading into their final match leading Tampines Rovers by a point and Home United by 2 points, the French team needed a win to seal their double, having already won the Singapore League Cup in March earlier this year.
Playing concurrently was the Tampines Rovers vs. Balestier Khalsa, and Home United against SAFFC, in Tampines Stadium and Jalan Besar stadium respectively.
However, just 2 minutes into the match, Etoile was caught off guard by Kazuki Kobayashi’s early goal, giving the home club a precious lead. In the 29th minute, Etoile star striker Frederic Mendy narrowly missed a chance to score an open goal, but made up for it a minute later when he was fouled in the penalty box. Loic Leclercq stepped up to the spot and calmly placed the ball past Yoshito Matsushita into the top right corner, making it 1-1.
In first half stoppage time, lethal Kobayashi struck again, scoring a scrappy goal with Albirex Niigata going into the break leading 2-1. Meanwhile, Tampines Rovers had already went 3-0 up against Balestier Khalsa, leaving Etoile no choice but grab all three points to win their first ever S league title.
It wasn’t until the 64th minute when Mendy scored the equalizer. Mendy scored again in the 77th minute, before team captain Matthias Verschave sealed the win 4 minutes later with a goal, making it 4-2.
The atmosphere was absolutely electrifying, with the vocal cheers by Etoile supporters drowning out Albirex’s fans.
“Albirex is a very good team (with) very young players,” Etoile midfielder Stephane N’Cho, said through his teammate Mathieu Delahaigue, who translated for him. “(It was) a very difficult win tonight, but now we are champions.”
N’Cho added that he was very “happy for Etoile, all the players and the fans” for the title win, and credited it to the ‘all the work since the beginning’ of the season.
Patrick Vallee, Etoile’s coach said, “I am very happy because when I came to Singapore, in my heart, in my head, I wanted to win everything. I won the league cup (and) the title, I am very happy.”
Speaking about the state of Singapore football, Vallee said that it was “not bad”. Praising the top 5-6 teams as “very good”, he cited the example of coming into the final match with 3 teams vying for the title.
“Singapore football is about to grow up, but they need to work with young players.” Vallee added.
Entirely made up of players of French origin, Etoile is the first foreign team to achieve the incredible feat of winning the S.League. Previously, the closest a foreign club had ever gotten to was 2nd place, by the Yishun Super Reds, 2 years ago.