Coach of the Comoros national football team Amir Abdou believes that his team are on the right path and should not be ruled out of a shock qualification for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations.
“I can see how far we’ve come, but I’m not surprised by it. It’s just the result of a lot of hard work,” Abdou said. “We’re very proud all the same and we’re not planning on stopping here. There’s still room for improvement.”
The Comoros Football Federation’s (FFC) decision to appoint as Abdou national team coach back in January 2014 came as a surprise to everyone. Entrusting a struggling team to a 42-year-old coach with no real experience was regarded as a brave move by many.
The FFC approached Abdou while he was in charge at Entente Golfech-Saint-Paul d’Espis, a team in France’s sixth tier. Born in Marseille in 1972 and of Comorian ancestry, Abdou was initially offered a position as assistant coach to Henri Stambouli. But when Stambouli turned the job down, the FFC made Abdou their head coach, a decision they did not regret.
“There were several people in the running for the job but after a few interviews, they decided to go for me,” said a smiling Abdou, evidently happy with life. “My positive mindset, my desire to do things right and my sense of organisation no doubt convinced them. I’m so proud to be a national team coach, especially with my home country.
“What really puts a smile on my face is the passion that your team can generate,” he added. “The stakes are higher. It’s not a town or a region behind you but a whole country, a whole nation of people. That changes everything. Club football is just as important, but the adrenaline is on another level in international football.”
But six years on that perceived gamble has proved to be inspired. Led by their unheralded coach and jumping from 198th to 133rd in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
Comoros have experienced an upturn in their fortunes since Abdou’s arrival. He began his tenure with a 1-1 draw against Burkina Faso, who were flirting with the top 50 of the FIFA Ranking at the time. His team has recorded a few other notable results since then, including a 1-1 draw with Gabon and a 0-0 draw with Ghana, though they have yet to kick on and claim a coveted place at either the FIFA World Cup™ or the CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
Nevertheless, good results have continued to come in the qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, which have seen them record a first ever away win in an official match – a 1-0 victory in Togo – and hold Egypt to a goalless draw.
“If there’s one match that stands out, it would have to be the draw with Ghana in 2015, in the qualifiers for Russia 2018,” said Abdou. “We deserved to win and the people of Comoros celebrated it as if we had. It’s an amazing memory and a benchmark performance for us.”
There are no star names in this national team, with most of its members playing in lower divisions in Europe’s top leagues. The only one with any experience of European club competition is forward El Fardou Ben Nabouhane, who plays for Serbia’s Crvena Zvezda. Not that the coach is worried about his charges’ relative lack of top-level experience.
“You don’t need to have amazing players,” said Abdou, who named Kassim Aballah (Al Raed FC), Nadjim Abdou (Martigues), Fouad Bachirou (Nottingham Forest), Youssouf M’Changama (Grenoble) and Ben Nabouhane as the spine of his team. “If you’ve got a healthy and hard-working group of players and you don’t have any problems with egos, then you can get the same results as any dream team.
“If you look at our performances, and with the exception of the 3-0 defeat to Cameroon in the qualifiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, we’ve always given as good as we’ve got against the teams we’ve faced,” explained the coach. “We’ve lost a few games but we’ve made life difficult for all of them. We play to our strengths: discipline, organisation and a fantastic team spirit.”
Knocked out by Togo in the preliminary round of the African qualifiers for the Qatar 2022, Comoros are currently striving for a place at the 2022 CAF Africa Cup of Nations. They stand top of Group G of the qualifiers ahead of Kenya, Egypt and Togo.
“This is my third qualifying campaign and we’re getting better all the time,” he explained. “We got three points the first time, five the second, and now we’re aiming for qualification. We’re not going to deny it. I’m not saying that opposition teams are scared of us, but I do think they’re wary of us now. And as the results we got against Togo and Egypt show, we’ve got good reason to hope.”
Egyptian, 75, Becomes World’s Oldest Soccer Pro
Egyptian grandfather Ezzeldin Bahader has been recognised as the world’s oldest professional soccer player after completing a second full match just short of his 75th birthday.
Bahader was awarded the title by Guinness World Records on Saturday evening after missing a penalty kick as his team, 6th October FC, lost 3-2 to El Ayat Sports club in the Egyptian third division.
The former amateur player, who turns 75 on Nov. 3, scored a goal from the penalty spot in his debut match on March.
He planned to play a second 90-minute match the same month to claim his record, but the suspension of sports activities to contain the spread of the coronavirus put his plans on hold.
Bahader had previously told media he was 75, which he attributed to “rounding up”.
Having him on the team had allowed 6th October FC to gain sponsors and publicity, he said.
Some of Bahader’s six grandchildren attended Saturday’s match, chanting “Come on, Grandpa” from the touchline.
“I dream of being able to break my own record one more time, just to make the competition a little harder,” Bahader said, though he is now out of contract.
The record was previously held by 73-year-old Israeli Isaak Hayik.
Peres Jepchirchir & Jacob Kiplimo Win World Half-Marathon Titles
Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir and Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo won gold medals at the World Athletics Half-Marathon Championships in the Polish seaside city of Gdynia.
27-year-old Jepchirchir earned her second world title in the half-marathon discipline and broke her own women-only world record by 16 seconds in 1:05:18. In a race marred by falls, Jepchirchir kept her cool and her balance to stay clear of the following pack.
The first incident occurred at the 9km mark. Running on the downhill section of the 5440-meter loop towards the water, defending champion Netsanet Gudeta tripped trying to make the sharp left turn to the road along the seafront. The Ethiopian hit her left knee hard and scraped both her hands. Although she bounced up quickly, she had lost valuable time and was five seconds back when the leaders hit the 10-kilometer mark in a blistering 30:47.
Disater struck again at the 18km mark when reigning TCS New York City Marathon champion Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh tangled their legs with both women crashing to the pavement. Yeshaneh, the world record holder with a 1:04:31 personal best, fell hard landing on her right shoulder.
As the three front runners Jepchirchir, Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Germany’s Melat Kejeta made the slight right turn onto the carpeted finish straight built on a platform on the beach, Yehualaw lost traction due to the surface change and slipped. Although she did not fall, her momentum was interrupted just enough for Kejeta to pass her and take the silver medal in 1:05:18, a new European record for an all-women’s race. Yehualaw got the bronze in a personal best 1:05:19.
“I’m feeling good,” said Jepchirchir in her post-race interview. “I thank God for the energy he has given me today. It’s unbelievable; I was not expecting it (a new world record) but God planned for me.”
Jepchirchir will enjoy only a week’s rest after her record-breaking victory as she will immediately begin preparations for the Valencia Marathon on December 6.
“My season is not yet complete,” she said. “I still have Valencia Marathon in December so I’ll prepare for that. I think this win gave me a lot. I’d like to run 2:17 or 2:18 for the marathon.
“This pandemic was difficult and it affected a lot of people. I used this time to train, I didn’t stop my training because I was trying to reach my shape.
“I am so happy with this. It’s a gift to all the Kenyans, to my family. I am going to rest now for one week to recover then I’ll continue training for Valencia,” she concluded.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old Kiplimo won his first global title setting a championship and Ugandan record of 58:49. Prior to the meet, he had only run one half-marathon, but it was only a national-class race in Uganda and he had never really been tested at the distance.
50 minutes into the race, Kiplimo began to pull away from Kibiwott Kandie of Kenya who would have to settle for second place. 5,000 and 10,000m world record holder Kenya’s Joshua Cheptegei, who was in third, was passed by Ethiopia’s Amedework Walelegn and had to settle for fourth at the finish.
Running along the seafront to the finish, Kiplimo maintained his pace and cruised to the finish in 58:49, a new championships record. Kandie crossed second in 58:54 becoming the first man ever to run three sub-59:00 half-marathons in the same year. Third went to Walelegn in 59:08, a personal best.
“After five kilometers I know I was going to win,” an elated Kiplimo said in his post-race interview while wearing a surgical mask. He continued: “It was great to win.”
The team titles went to Ethiopia (women) and Kenya (men), and both individual champions earned $30,000 in prize money. Jepchirchir also earned a $50,000 world record bonus.
CAF President Ahmad Congratulates Mwenda on FKF Re-Election
President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Ahmad Ahmad has written to congratulate Nick Mwendwa on his re-election as Football Kenya Federation(FKF) president.
In long awaited elections held at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel, Mwenda won a landslide victory with 77 votes from the 85 cast with closest challenger Omondi Aduda managing only five votes. Herbert Mwachiro managed to get three while Dan Mule and Boniface Osano got zero votes.
“I was not surprised when I learned about your brilliant re-election as the head of the Football Kenya Federation, thus confirming the high performance and the high efficiency of your work since 2016, the year of your first taking office, and I hasten to present you my most warm and sincere congratulations,” Ahmad said.
“On behalf of the Executive Committee of Caf and personally, I wish you every success in your endeavours.
“This second term, which you obtained by an impressive majority, is the demonstration that your entire term has been appreciated and strongly supported.”
“Considered as one of our youngest National Association president, you represent a role model and an example of pride to follow for African sports youth, and I remain convinced that you will continue all of your actions with the same vigour and the same determination,” the letter added.
“I encourage you on this path to success which reflects the prestigious ambition of the Kenyan nation which has made the sport a national priority.
“Kindly accept, Mr President, dear friend Nick once again my warm congratulations and friendly greetings.”
On his part, Mwenda was quick to extend the olive branch to his rivals after what had been a particularly bitter and often fractious contest.
“I am very humbled for the overwhelming win we scooped as Team Blue,” he said.
“I knew going into the elections that I will retain my seat but I didn’t know I will do it with such an emphatic style, I thank the delegates for giving me another mandate to lead them and I promise I will achieve my targets in the next four years.
“I also want to ask those who were competing against me, and even those who lost in various positions here today [Saturday] I am welcoming them to my side, let them come we work together, let us put our heads together to improve our football.
“I cannot do this on my own or with the team you have given me, I need everyone on board so we can achieve our set targets.
“We have several targets we must achieve in the next four years, I want to see Kenya in the World Cup, for both men and women national teams, I know it might sound like a dream or even a joke, but we can make it, we need proper planning and that is why I want everyone on board.”
The 41 year old was keen to hit the ground running urging haste.
“We are starting work immediately, on Monday it will be business as usual at the secretariat, we don’t have time to waste, we have wasted time-fighting in courts but now that we are done with elections, then it is time to give back and fight for football, we want to make sure football is back with a bang.
“The overwhelming win is a clear indication that delegates have trust in our management, they have trusted us again with football, and we will do our best to make sure that everyone enjoys every bit of football in the country.”
Mwenda also assured fans that the federation was still engaing the government in order to find an acceptable and safe way to restart the league.
“We are still talking to the government and I want to request them to help us open football but under protocols set by the Ministry of Health and start the league matches,” he said.
“We want to make sure our league starts in November 20, because it is the only date that can allow us to finish the season well on time, we don’t have much time left, we want to have a cautious approach towards resuming football and that is why we are pleading with the government to guide us, we will continue to talk to them.”
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