“We started from very far”: the Comoros, selection from the very French breeding ground, at the gates of a historic qualification for the CAN

Comoros players celebrate goal against Kenya in November 2020
Against Togo on Thursday March 25, the Comoros only need a small point to validate the very first qualification in their history for the African Cup of Nations. A feat for a team that takes advantage of the binational system and a large Comorian community in France to rely on players trained in France and progress at the highest level.

The context encourages measurement and avoid igniting unnecessarily. Since the beginning of the interview, Amir Abdou, the coach of the Comoros has applied to use the conditional to evoke a potential qualification of his team at the next African Cup of Nations (CAN), in January 2022, in Cameroon. An immense feat which would be a first in the sporting history of the Comoros. In the world of football, as in politics, the tongue-in-cheek is often the order of the day. Perhaps it is an excess of enthusiasm, but that of Amir Abdou ends up failing.

At the time, the 48-year-old coach couldn’t help himself: “It’s going to be a great reward for us, after all the hard work over the last few years“. For more than six months, and the last matches played by the Coelacanths (nickname derived from a species of fish living in particular in the Comoros), a whole country has been dreaming of a qualification that gives it the In front of Togo on Thursday March 25, the Comoros, an archipelago made up of three islands in the Indian Ocean, only need a small point to validate their ticket for the next CAN. Egypt, which is playing in Kenya at the same time, would automatically qualify them.

And if Kenya were to resist, Abdou’s players would have another chance at qualifying against Egypt in four days. As we have said, qualification extends its arms to the Comoros and the possible scenarios are tilted in their favor. But Amir Abdou is not the type to consider a small arm qualification: “Our goal is to finish ahead of Egypt. We want to end this qualifying campaign. “

After years of hardship, Abdou is enjoying it. The coach, who divides his time between the Comoros and his position as coach of the Mauritanian club FC Nouadhibou, is especially used to the requirement of the highest level. When he took the head of the selection in 2014, this Marseillais of origin who officiated until then at the amateur level in the south of France, becomes aware of the site which awaits him. The last game of the Comoros dates back to 2012 and the selection, plagued by financial problems, occupies 190th place in the FIFA rankings, an organization it only joined in 2006.

It’s been a lot, a lot of work over the years with the staff. It’s a lot of relentlessness, pugnacity. We did not let go“, explains, with a smile on his face, Amir Abdou. Seven years later, it is all the Comorian people who already imagine themselves supporting the Coelacanths during the next CAN, which will take place in January 2022 in Cameroon. results in November 2019 against Egypt and Togo, the selection has indeed put itself in an ideal position for qualification by taking four points in two matches against Kenya last November. It now occupies 130th place in the league. FIFA ranking and the good results pushed the weekly Young Africa to rank the Comoros sixth best African selection of the year 2020. Amir Abdou was selected for the title of best African coach of the year.

Unexpected results after many years of hard work. “We knew we were starting a long way off. But we always had the hope of succeeding in going as high as possible“, assures Nadjim Abdou. Captain of the selection, Nadjim – not to be confused with Amir, the coach – Abdou was the first professional player to join the ranks of the Comoros in the early 2010. At the time, and again today, the selection cannot really count on local football to be competitive at the international level. “In the Comoros, football is still looking for development. With the few resources that there are there, the teams are hanging on. But there is still a lack of infrastructure, good training for educators, good monitoring of young people“, underlines Amir Abdou, the coach.

Without relying on the locals, the Coelacanths use a considerable pool: the Comorian community in France, ie around 150,000 people. Until 1975, the Comoros was a French colony. Since independence, part of the archipelago’s population has flown to France. Captain Nadjim Abdou is, like ten other players in the selection, from the large Comorian community living in Marseille. And like all of the 23 players of the Coelacanths – except striker Ibroihim Youssouf – Abdou had his first club in France.

We take advantage of the rules on binationals. Today, there is a large community of Comorians in France and we have a lot of young people in training centers that are emerging.“, assumes the coach. Thanks to this system, Amir Abdou and his staff have gradually built up a competitive team. However, no player in the selection, in which Ali Ahamada and Kassim Abdallah play in particular, does not play in Ligue 1, nor in the four major European championships, unlike Togo or Egypt…

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