Canadian Championships: Papouche Caps Off Historic Night of Soccer in Style
Flares, Broken Fences and Late Drama Highlight First Leg Match.
It was a night of firsts for Association de Soccer de Blainville and the Oakville Blue Devils. Representatives from both the Premier ligue de soccer de Quebec and League1 Ontario were granted entry into the Canadian Championship for the first time in the competition’s ten year history.
The clock struck 90 minutes and the final whistle was imminent. Both Blainville and the Blue Devils were tied at one-a-piece in their Canadian Championship debut at Stade Desjardins, in Laval. With the supporters oozing excitement, and scouts looming on the sidelines, Blainville saved the best for last on Wednesday night.
As the announcer’s voice informed the crowd of the four minutes of additional time, Blainville earned a corner kick. Midifielder Nazim Belguendouz crossed the ball into Oakville’s box, taking a few deflections along the way. As Blainville’s captain, Nafi Dicko-Raynauld’s saw his shot hit off the crossbar, Pierre-Rudolph Mayard—more commonly known as Papouche—saw his chance at glory.
“For a forward you never know what’s gonna happen. You have to be ready all the time, you have to be on your toes, you have to smell that something’s gonna happen,” said Papouche.
With little time to think, the former Montreal Impact forward sprung into the air for a bicycle kick. Before his body could hit the ground, his acrobatic effort saw the ball hit the back of the net, and would see Blainville win the first leg.
“When I saw the ball at that height I knew that my only chance to get a goal was a bicycle kick, so I just went for it because that’s just a reaction as a forward,” said Papouche.
Blainville players followed Papouche in celebration, running towards the supporters. While white and blue smoke began to cloud the Blue Devils side of the field, fans stepped onto the turf to celebrate with the players, capping off a historic night.
“It was just a pure moment of joy [and] euphoria,” said Dicko-Raynauld, who became the first player to captain a PLSQ team in the Canadian Championship.
Papouche’s winning goal and the ensuing celebrations was arguably the moment of the match, but for Belguendouz he couldn’t help but smile for his teammate Mitchell Syla after the victory.
The week leading up to the match, the former FC Montreal captain—the Montreal Impact’s now defunct United Soccer League team—said he was backing his teammate to score his first goal of the season during the Championship.
Before the game, Belguendouz revealed that he told Syla he would score. Syla later opened the scoring in the first half with a curling effort past Oakville’s Matthew George, netting his first goal of the season in the process. “I told you,” said Belguendouz.
“I was really happy, I know it was hard for him during the beginning of the season,” continued Belguendouz. “He’s a guy that scores a lot of goals and when a striker doesn’t score, it’s hard for him mentally.”
Belguendouz’s words of encouragement to Syla speaks to his qualities as an influential figure on Blainville. Both he and Papouche joined the team with experience in a professional setting, and having a team with young players who have never played at the highest level, Dicko-Raynauld said both former Impact products “showed their leadership on the field.”
“I think it gave [the team] a relief,” said Papouche. “We [spoke to the team] throughout the week, through every [training] sessions, before the game, we tried to calm everyone down and just tell them ‘at the end of the day it’s still a soccer game, we need to enjoy it and need to have fun’.”
After the win, Belguendouz didn’t get to caught up in the excitement that surrounded him and his teammates, citing that “it’s only one game,” acknowledging that Blainville still have 90 more minutes to go as they will be the visitor come June 13.
“I think we’re just gonna go there and do the same thing, now we know they’re gonna come strong […] we just have to stay focused have to be ready to battle for 90 minutes over there,” said Papouche.