May 15, 2022 2:29 pm

Comoros, the surprising team that is playing the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time and reached the round of 16, but was left without goalkeepers

As if to make his first participation in the Africa Cup of Nations, which includes qualifying for the round of 16 to play this Monday against the organizer Cameroon, the Comoros national team has no available goalkeeper for that knockout match.

A wave of Covid-19 swept through the delegation, with twelve positive cases, and among them The two substitute goalkeepers, Moyadh Ousseini and Ali Ahamada, are affected. An excessively inopportune situation because they were vying for the starting spot after the experienced Salim Ben Boina was injured in the agonizing 3-2 win over Ghana last Tuesday that allowed the team to advance in the tournament as one of the best third parties. They are going to need “an Enzo Pérez” for a day, who cut short in River for the Copa Libertadores in a situation like that.

Comoros win over Ghana

In total, seven footballers tested positive for coronavirus and the coaching staff will not be able to count on them, which also has the DT himself isolated Amiredine Abdou, a Marseillais in charge since 2014. The news was announced by manager El Hadad Himidi this Saturday. “We will face them with the best we can. Without the coach, some starting players and the two remaining goalkeepers, the situation for us is very difficult”. added the spokesman. Quite a paradox: the Comoros was one of the last countries where Covid arrived, in May 2020.

After so much fanfare to get their first three points in the tournament, stay in third place in Group C and leave behind a powerful team with World Cup experience like the Ghanaian, the world fell apart in Comoros. The small island nation, made up of four islands in southeast Africa, has just over 900,000 inhabitants according to the latest census, It is the 21st poorest country on the planet and has participated in soccer tournaments since 1979.

In the FIFA ranking, Comoros is the 132nd selection among the 211 registered. Independent from France in 1975, only 30 years later its national team was accepted as a member of the entity that manages the interests of this sport and In November 2019, he celebrated for the first time in an official game, in a 1-0 away win against Togo. To reach this championship, as had never happened before, they sealed their classification in March 2021, a date before finishing their group, where they finished second behind Mo Salah’s Egypt.

Everyone is chasing Ahmed Mogni after his goal against Ghana in the Africa Cup of NationsDANIEL BELOUMOU OLOMO – AFP

The fairy tale became a reality, to give even more value to their story of poverty and scarce resources. “The national team is the perfect reflection of our country and shows that there is strength in unity. It is made up of players from all corners. All the colors of our flag are represented. Build unity.” described Nadjim Abdou, a 37-year-old midfielder, the son of a coach who alternated in the French and English leagues, with only one season in the French first division, with Sedan Ardennes. He currently belongs to Millwall, of the British Championship.

Comoros is made up of four islands with mountainous and jungle relief: Grande Comore, Mohéli, Anyuan and Mayotte, and since it is a French territory, many of its players have that nationality. If his team has become more competitive, it is because of the history of resilience and the experience that key pieces of his backbone bring him when competing in the French leagues. On the way to Qatar 2022, however, he did not pass the first round.

Five minutes from time, Ahmed Mogni's second goal gave Comoros victory and qualification in a 3-2 win over Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations
Five minutes from time, Ahmed Mogni’s second goal gave Comoros victory and qualification in a 3-2 win over Ghana in the Africa Cup of NationsDANIEL BELOUMOU OLOMO – AFP

“When the national team plays, everything stops in our archipelago. The fathers, the mothers, the grandfathers and grandmothers, the children… Absolutely everyone supports the national team and we hope to represent it to the best of our ability. There may be four islands, but there is only one team!” emphasized the midfielder. In fact, soccer is the national sport on the Islands and each city has its own league. The unified title is defined in a triangle between the champions of Grande Comore, Mohéli and Anyuan.

The selection forms its squad based on pride and sense of belonging. Almost all his summoned play from the second to the fifth division of France. The exception to the rule is El Fardou Mohamed Ben Nabouhane, Comoros’ all-time top scorer, Paradoxically born on the only island from which a national champion does not emerge, the volcanic Mayotte, under French jurisdiction. Currently at the Red Star, in Serbia, he not only plays in the First Division but has done so in the Champions League. Wearing the green shirt of his country, he scored 16 goals in his first 30 games, including a hat-trick on September 1 in the team’s biggest win, 7-1 over Seychelles in a preparatory friendly for this Africa Cup of Nations.

The two defeats at the beginning of the tournament did not alter the ambition of the Comoros players and coaching staff, who always paid tribute to their fans in Cameroon
The two defeats at the beginning of the tournament did not alter the ambition of the Comoros players and coaching staff, who always paid tribute to their fans in CameroonComoros Football Federation

The Comoros Islands, where the local language, Arabic and French, are spoken, are located on the sea route between the main ports of Kilwa and Mozambique, at the outlet of gold from Zimbabwe, and 80% of its population is dedicated to subsistence agriculture and fishing. The main exports are vanilla, spices such as cloves or cinnamon, and various essences and flavorings, thanks to its generous production of exotic flowers and plants.

These days, in a state of sporting jubilation and beyond the casualties in the team to face one of the favorites, everyone smells like a goal and breathes football. In its suffocating and humid streets, its white sand beaches that seem virgin and its paradisiacal cutout with a low influx of tourists, they cling to the yellow, white, red, blue and green flag with a crescent moon and four stars that has been in use for 20 years. The illusion is trading much better than the Comorian francs, which are at almost 500 to 1 with the euro. Although few dare to give a peso for this selected team fallen into disgrace due to Covid infections.

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