As the qualification series for the Total Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon 2021 started, Comoros were ranked 148th in the world, so they had to start the campaign from the preliminary round.
But before the final matchday of the qualifiers, Les Colecanthes had guaranteed their place in the finals for the very first time.
The man behind this historical feat is Comorian coach Amir Abdou.
Born in Marseille, France on July 8, 1972, Abdou started his coaching career early with the youth ranks. In January 2014, while coaching French 6th tier side Golfech Saint Paul, he was appointed as Comoros coach, to start a long journey that reached its fairytale climax this March.
CAFOnline.com talked to Abdou, who is currently the long serving coach in the continent. And next January, he will be the first Comorian to guide his national team to a Total Africa Cup of Nations game in history.
Q: Back to January 2014 when you took over Comoros job, did you ever think then that you could reach AFCON finals one day?
A: No! It was so difficult to think of. I had to put the house foundations first. We had very few players abroad, and I had to start my own project with my coaching philosophy.
Q: You started your career in France. How did it feel coming back home?
A: When I received the call I was very excited and happy to work with my home country national team. I started my career with youth sides, and this helped me a lot to know hoe young players think and how to deal with them. We started with a very young team and kept the form till the moment. Most of these players are still with me till today, and with adding more young ones we became that solid side you see.
Q: Some critics see Comoros as a defensive team under your guidance. Do you agree that?
A: I can say I am not either defensive or offensive. I accommodate my tactics looking to my key tools and opponents, and always try to be balanced between defence and attack. I like watching Diego Simeone and Carlo Ancelotti, and they have totally different tactics.
Q: Without defeat in the group stage, including facing seven-time champions Egypt. How did you see that?
A: We had a very good game against Egypt at home and should have won but for their goalkeeper (Mohamed Elshenawy) heroics. But this was not the reason we qualified, we did so because we worked so hard from the first day and deserved to qualify.
Q: You are also coaching Mauritanian side Nouadhibou. How could you manage your time between both missions?
A: It’s a very tough and complicated mission. Balance between my job with Comoros national team and FC Nouadhibou is very difficult, especially during this pandemic situation and all its concerns. I work on daily basis with Nouadhibou in Mauritania, and then go to Comoros for international breaks, but this is never easy.
Q: Comoros squad is totally composed of players who have their career abroad, especially in France. What was the reason behind this decision?
A: The domestic league in Comoros is still in a phase that do not produce efficient players to take part in the national team and compete with those plying their trade in Europe. We had a couple of players from the domestic league but recently they joined me in Nouadhibou. Hopefully in the near future we can have more local based players.
Comoros has many talented young players who play in France and are eligible to play for Les Colecanthes, like Zaidu Youssef, Meziani Maoulida, Walsey Said and others. Will you recall them for the next year’s Total AFCON finals?
It’s up to them, I cannot force them to join us. It’s a personal decision, but if they chose to play for Comoros, they will be more than welcome. This is their fathers’ and ancestors’ country. I talked to some of them and still wait their final decision.
Q: Do you believe Comoros can shock the continent and go far in the 2021 Total AFCON, maybe like what Madagascar did in 2019 reaching the quarterfinals in their debut?A: I don’t have a magic ball to predict! But we have done a great job and will continue working. Let’s wait and see what happens. – CAF