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After a huge outing against Nice, Sabbi optimistic for future with Le Havre

ASN's Brian Sciaretta spoke with Emmanuel Sabbi after his huge outing for Le Havre in a 3-1 win over second place Nice in Ligue 1. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 20, 2023
1:05 PM

ONE OF THE BIG stories in Ligue 1 over the weekend was how recently promoted Le Havre defeated second place Nice convincingly by a 3-1 score. Behind that result was a Man of the Match effort from American winger Emmanuel Sabbi, who scored the first two goals for Le Havre and played a role in creating the play which drew the penalty for the third goal.

It was a surprising turn of events given that in the team’s previous game against Strasbourg, Sabbi was dropped from the roster on a decision from head coach Luka Elsner. But the Slovenian coach opted to start Sabbi against Nice on the heels of two straight losses. Even more interesting, the reason Elsner decided to start Sabbi was primarily because of his athleticism – which he felt would benefit the team defensively.

That’s not to say Sabbi’s defense wasn’t an asset in Le Havre’s big win, but it was his offense that stood out against a Nice team that boasted one of the best defenses in Ligue 1.

Following the game, many of the media’s questions were about Sabbi and how he went from being left out of the squad one week and into the Ligue 1 Team of the Week the following week.  

“Sabbi has a profile that is extremely capable of defending, having great timings to get out on the ball-carrier, to get back to help the fullback and also the athletic ability to keep going and add intensity,” Elsner said. “We needed that tonight in the midfield to put more mobile players because he had to follow their two number No. 8’s to prevent them from making triangles and be extremely aggressive.”

“He has a specific profile and desire to work for the collective group,” he added. “He wasn't with us in Strasbourg but he responded this way. The meeting for each match has its own story to the specific needs. Sometimes a player will not be called upon because the match will require something else. Then the week after, the play will be highlighted. He answered the call… It was always a matter of profile. He has always been at full strength in training with more or less success. We know how it works for a team and for a player. When the first ball you touch goes in, it opens up all possibilities for the future. The second goal comes from this confidence.”

As for Sabbi, the big breakthrough saw him earn praise for a Le Havre team that is in the top tier for the first time since 2009 with the win over Nice being the biggest for the club since its return. For Sabbi, he dedicated his performance to the fans for supporting him and making him welcome since his arrival over the summer.


“It was really just joy and excitement to give the fans what they’ve been so patiently waiting for,” Sabbi told American Soccer Now from France. “It’s an amazing group and they help me everyday and the fans are so supportive and it was an even better feeling to get me first and second for the club at home in front of our amazing supporters. Everything I’ve been dreaming of and working towards and just want to continue to work and get better everyday I’m blessed to be on the pitch.”

“It’s been amazing - the weather, people, club, town, and teammates have all been great,” he continued. “My teammates have welcomed me with open arms into the team as one of their own; the staff and players are also great and down to earth. The town and fans are wonderful especially at Stade Océane.”

Sabbi arrived at Le Havre on August 10 after six seasons in Denmark where he spend three seasons with Hobro followed with three seasons with OB Odense. It was there where he grew as a professional player. At Hobro he was very successful down the stretch of the 2018/19 season where he scored in three straight relegation playoff games to keep his team in the top tier.


Then with OB, he made further strides in his game where he scored 28 goals over 88 first team appearances in all competitions. In 2022/23, he ended his time with the club scoring five goals in his last six appearances before securing a transfer to Le Havre, which had just won Ligue 2.  

“Hobro helped me grow and find myself as a player and very grateful for my time there,” Sabbi said. “OB allowed me to showcase my abilities on a bigger platform and I’m so grateful for the club, the fans and all my former teammates. The fans in Hobro showed me love and OB 100% continued that.”

“It was exciting to know someone was looking and interested in me,” Sabbi added of the move to France. “It’s a great opportunity to be in one of the best leagues in the world and be part of this historic team.”

Playing in one of Europe’s top leagues obviously raises national team discussions. To date, Sabbi has only played 361 minutes for Le Havre and has made just three starts. But now with a big outing against Nice, it should open the door for more minutes and that should, in turn, raise his profile and help keep him in discussions for a call-up.

Sabbi does have history with the national team. In 2017, he was part of the U.S. U-20 team that won the CONCACAF championship and then he was on the U-20 World Cup and made two appearances in the team’s run to the quarterfinals. He also appeared in three friendlies for the U.S. U-23 in 2019.

But his USMNT debut came at the conclusion of January camp in 2023 when he played the final 25 minutes in a 0-0 draw with Colombia. That team was coached by Anthony Hudson. Sabbi is yet to make an appearance under Berhalter although he has played under Berhalter before. In 2017, he was attempting to sign with Las Palmas in Spain but visa issues prevented the move. Sabbi was born in Italy to Ghanian parents but he crew up in Ohio. When he was in club limbo with Las Palmas, he trained with the Columbus Crew for an extended period when they were managed by Gregg Berhalter.

Next week Sabbi will turn 26 and he hopes that more Le Havre success will put him in a position for regular call-ups.

“It was a very exciting and humbling moment for me and my family,” Sabbi said of his USMNT debut in 2023. “I had been working all my life for that moment. I believe God’s timing is the best, so I will continue to work on my game and help my team. Hopefully it brings points, goals, and assists and I believe I’ll get my chance when the time is right. Making the USMNT has been my dream and goal since I touched a ball as a young boy - to be able to play on the senior national team and succeed.”

For now, Sabbi’s future looks bright. He is on a Le Havre team that is exceeding expectations after earning promotion as they currently sit 10th in the table. It’s a platform where if he can show well, it will open doors for both club and country. But his current teammates are impressed with how he moves and reads space.

“He is a player who moves well,” said Le Havre forward Mohamed Bayo. “I know that he has good finishing quality and in his movements he manages to orient himself well to use the right spaces. I think he brings something perhaps that that the other players do not have by his quality of movement. He is a very important player for our squad.”

Elsner echoed a similar sentiment and noted that Sabbi is making progress recently and that his effort against Nice was something that had been building in training.

“I think he reaps the fruit of all of his daily work which were accentuating in recent weeks,” Elsner explained. “On the finishing side, we really tried to press on the side of being very aggressive and attacking the ball. Little by little, it is paying off for him, and for us.”

As for Sabbi, he is just going to keep moving forward and is happy both with where he is and where he is going.

“My goals are to continue to grow, assist my teammates and to hopefully have the nets ringing,” Sabbi said. “Likewise, I intend on working hard for the club and fans. We have a solid team, very good as a group and it will definitely continue to show. I believe in these guys and we believe in ourselves as a collective.”

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