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the Comoros, selection from the very French breeding ground, at the gates of a historic qualification for the CAN

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.

The coach, Amir Abdou, alongside the former Toulouse-based Ali Ahamada


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.”

A jump of 60 places in the FIFA rankings

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 team of the year 2020. Amir Abdou was selected for the title of best African coach of the year.

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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.

The Comorian community in France, a large breeding ground

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…

Yacine Bourhane and the Comorians celebrate the victory against Kenya in November 2020.
Yacine Bourhane and the Comorians celebrate the victory against Kenya in November 2020.


From amateur level to CAN?

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The majority of Coelacanths thus evolve in championships of second zone, or in Ligue 2, National, National 2 or National 3. Some pass from the amateur level to international meetings with the Comoros. “We are forced to surpass ourselves. We must be a step stronger than usual, put more determination, always do more“, concedes Kassim M’Dahoma, holder with the selection and who evolves at SC Lyon, in National.”We are able to string together high-level matches but it takes a lot of energy in the sense that we have to make more effort than the opponent, be more focused, because the other teams are more used to this. kind of matches“, explains Amir Abdou.

Playing with the Comoros also allows you to participate in matches at a level that we would not have had access to in a club“, admits Nadjim Abdou, who is playing this season in Martigues, in National 2. Obviously, with the recent successes, the selection of the Comoros has gained in credibility and can consider convincing other binationals. Players like Wesley Saïd (Toulouse FC ), Myziane Maolida (OGC Nice) and Ismaël Boura (RC Lens) are in the sights of the coach.

The difficulty, when we want to convince high-level players to join us, is to succeed in seducing them. But what is certain is that before we clearly could not do it“, assures Amir Abdou. Despite the success of the Comoros, the young Maolida (22 years) or Boura (20 years) are still attracted by the possibility of playing for the France team, the reigning world champion. For his part, Kassim M ‘Dahoma, also from Marseille, did not hesitate a second to play for the Coelacanths, from his 21 years old, to take advantage of the fervor of the country.

“As soon as you land in the country, it’s madness”

It is a great pride to play for the Comoros. The support there is amazing, it’s a country that lives for football“, assures the defender of SC Lyon.”As soon as you land in the country, it’s madness. The country is celebrating and we realize how important the selection is for the Comorian people“, confirms Nadjim Abdou.”People are crazy about the selection“, adds Amir Abdou. The coach remembers the match against Egypt in November 2019 in the new Iconi-Malouzini stadium:”It was unbelievable. The stadium has 13,000 seats. And after thirty minutes, people broke the gate. There were over 25,000 people. At the end of the game, people took to the pitch. The announcer took the microphone to tell them to leave the field because we risked losing the match on the green carpet. And the people were off the lawn in less than a minute. It was impressive“.

The invasion of the lawn against Egypt between 48 “30 and 51” 00

All while the Comoros had just obtained… a draw against the Pharaohs (0-0). A sign that the selection has come a long way. And that the Comorian population take advantage of the recent successes of the Coelacanths to forget, for a moment, a fragile economic and social situation in the country. “I think we are still struggling to achieve the route we have taken. But we can be very proud of it when we see the joy of the Comorian people. All we live is only happiness“, assure Nadjim Abdou.

In January 2022, during the next CAN, the captain of the Coelacanths will be 37 years old. In Cameroon, the defender of Martigues, who has lived everything with the Comoros and who alone represents the shift of the selection into the professional world, could live his last footballing adventure. “It would be nice to be able to finish with the CAN“, thinks Nadjim Abdou. But before that, the Coelacanths have an appointment this Thursday against Togo, to turn the conditional and their wildest dreams into reality.

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