If you have tuned in to African football recently, you will hear one team’s name pop up again and again.
They shocked Kenya and held Egypt to a scoreless draw. They qualified for their first major tournament after thirteen years. The Comoros national football team, nicknamed Les Coelacantes, has busted record after record and shocked pundits from around the globe.
It is even more impressive when you learn that, for a period, Comoros was one of the worst national teams in the world.
“Comfort was lacking and you had to adapt. Now everything has improved. We have a professional staff, recovery times, everything is there now,” Comorian midfielder Rafidine Abdullah told New Frame. The exponential growth of Comoros and their newfound success means that they may be worth watching as the Africa Cup of Nations comes closer and closer.
To understand how far the Comoros team has come, you need to understand how horrific they were. Les Coelacantes were the dregs of international football, ranking #198 in the 2008 year-end FIFA rankings. Things slowly got better for Comoros. A meteoric rise in 2016 propelled them to the #140 year-end spot. In the same year, for the first time ever, Comoros advanced past the first stage of World Cup qualification. The success continued for Les Coelacantes in 2021 by qualifying for their first major tournament, the African Cup of Nations.
Now the Comoros team is coming out ready to prove themselves.
“Comoros, who, having qualified to play in such an elite tournament for the first time, would like to prove that their qualification was not by chance. They would, therefore, be adequately motivated to prove a point. So they can be very competitive, just to prove to the big boys that they are also a team to beat,” Ghanian legend Asamoah Gyan told ModernGhana after the Africa Cup of Nations draw.
Motivated and competitive are both adjectives that could easily be used to describe the Comorian football team. They completed a three-game win streak, beating Seychelles, Burundi, and Sierra Leone. Some have said the team “ought not to be underestimated.”
Now, with their inaugural Africa Cup of Nations looming over their heads, Comoros has a team worth watching.
Decked out in Macron-made eco-friendly kits, Comoros drew media attention thanks to its decision to field just one home-born player. But most media sources did not go into detail on Comoros’ other 27 players.
Guingamp midfielder Youssouf M’Changama will lead his national team. M’Changma is arguably the best player on his Guingamp side, scoring four goals and assisting nine in 17 games. He holds an impressive 40 caps along with eight goals for the national team.
El Fardou Ben Nabouhane, also known as Ben, will provide the firepower for a usually defensive Comorian side. The Red Star attacker will bring lethality to the team. Ben scored ten goals for Comoros, a record for the national team.
Fouad Bachirou of Omonia Nicosia is proving himself for his club. Bachirou has played in numerous Europa Conference League and Cypriot First Division matches. Bachirou earned 26 caps for Les Coelacantes, and he will look to anchor Comoros’ midfield.
You can find Comoros’ complete 26-man squad here.
At first look, this Comoros side does not look like natural contenders. Comoros has a population of around 900,000 people and a high level of poverty. It has an area of just 1861 kilometres squared. Les Coelacantes competing on Africa’s biggest stage despite all of these obstacles is remarkable.
It is thanks to Comoros’ brilliant plan that they are seeing success. Comoros recruited French players with Comorian backgrounds to play for them. And it worked. Lowly nations can use Comoros’ blueprint to elevate their standing in the FIFA rankings. “We showed that progress is possible even when you start from scratch,” Abdullah said.
Comoros also poses a threat to the teams in its group. Fellow island nation saw Madagascar’s success in 2019’s Africa Cup of Nations. The Barea advanced to the quarterfinals in their Africa Cup of Nations debut. If they did, why can’t Comoros?
Lastly, Comoros is a team to watch. It is not just because of its status as a sleeper candidate or because of the records being broken. It is also because of how little Comoros are reported on. As the Africa Cup of Nations looms, Comoros will see more attention from media sources everywhere.
“I didn’t even know if Comoros had a national team,” Abdullah said. Now the world will focus on the team from a tiny archipelago. Comoros’ growth is exciting to watch and it will be interesting to see where Comoros goes from here. With success, everyone will know of Les Coelacantes.
Count on Les Coelacantes to bring new fresh faces to African football and to establish a name for themselves in this Africa Cup of Nations.