Esperance wins President’s Cup, CA Bizerte faces relegation
By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 24/05/2007
Esperance of Tunis (EST) defeated CA Bizerte (CAB) 2-1 on Sunday evening (May 20th), in a tense encounter that earned the team Tunisia’s President’s Cup.
In the Olympic Stadium in Rades, a southern suburb of Tunis, some 60,000 spectators created a festive atmosphere in the stands, which were swathed in the team’s red and yellow colours. Fans rejoiced in EST's victory as in the past year the team has achieved the "double" - the Tunisian Championship and the President’s Cup.
Immediately after Sunday’s match and the subsequent presentation of the cup by Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who watched the second half of the game from the VIP box, EST Chairman Aziz Zouhir announced that his team salvaged its season by winning the Cup. "Our team worked hard to come out of the season with a title, and it deserves to be on the winner's podium, with its faithful supporters around it," said Zouhir.
Moroccan striker Hicham Aboucherouane could not conceal his delight at this crowning achievement. Sunday was the first final he played for his team, who signed him this season. "I'm over the moon about my first title win outside Morocco…The game was by no means easy... but Esperance deserved to win", said Aboucherouane.
According to Moine Chaabani, who scored the first goal for EST, "We were keen to have something to show for our season, and disappointing our loyal supporters was not an option…We had prepared well for the final and were technically and mentally prepared, which our performance on the pitch confirms, since we won deservedly and made our fans happy."
EST manager Jacky Dugueperoux said that his team deserved the Cup, but did not conceal his sympathy for the CA Bizerte team during the press conference held shortly after the match. "I’m sure you will have noticed that Esperance were eager to win from the very start of the game," said Dugueperoux. "We began the game wholeheartedly, with clear, aggressive intent. In the end we did what was needed and deserved to win, but that doesn’t prevent me from saying that CA Bizerte performed well and gave us a run for our money, and personally I find it strange that this team is at the bottom of the Championship League table," he said.
Mokhtar al-Talili, CAB’s coach, said that he was pleased with how his squad fared during the match, but admitted that they faced tough odds with Esperance. "We were up against a stronger opponent in the final, this a fact which can't be denied, but overall I’m pleased with my boys. They gave all they had and made their club proud in spite of the defeat, which is no disgrace, since Club Bizerte gave Esperance a run for their money and came very close to getting a draw," said al-Talili. "But it’s always bitter to lose and I'm not ashamed to admit this, as history only remembers results, the title and the winners," he said.
Dugueperoux refused to comment on whether he would stay on as manager of EST, saying instead in a statement published in Al-Sahafa on Tuesday that his plans were focused internationally. "By winning the Tunis Cup, what now remains is to play for victory in the African Champions League, a further goal which requires us to provide greater human resources. This is something I have not hidden from the club’s management," he said.
Following their defeat, CA Bizerte will face champions Etoile du Sahel in a decisive test in the last round of the championship, since a defeat or draw would mean CAB’s relegation from the premier division.
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