An amateur side from Réunion have caused a major shock in the Coupe de France by beating Ligue 2 side Niort away from home in the round of 64. It turned out to be a very worthwhile 9,000km journey for JS Saint-Pierroise from the island situated off the coast of Madagascar as Gérard Hubert and Ryan Ponti scored in a 2-1 defeat of the second tier side.
The French Football Federation allow teams from the overseas departments to take part in the competition each season but it is only the second time in history a team from one of the islands have reached the last 32 of the cup. The last time it happened was in 1989 when Le Geldar of French Guiana achieved the same feat.
Veteran Hubert opened the scoring with a header but that was cancelled out by his teammate Mamy Randrianarisoa who put the ball into his own net. The Islanders bounced back as Ponti put them back into the lead and they managed to hold on. At the final whistle, the team celebrated with fans as a number of flares.
Match-winner Ponti said: “Personally, I don’t realise what we just did. What we are doing is historic. I don’t even have the words.”
Despite their lowly stature, Réunion Premier League champions do boast former Blackpool midfielder Elliott Grandin among their squad, with the 32-year-old playing the full 90 minutes in Niort.
In the next round, they could play Ligue 1 sides Marseille or Bordeaux, who are in the same regionalised section of the draw as the African islanders.