For over a year, the Comoros players watched enviously each month as the new FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking was published. What irked them was not so much their position, but the fact that they could not actively do anything about it as the side went over 12 months without competitive action.
The long wait came to an end in March, however, when the Comoros played an international friendly against Burkina Faso in Marseille. And surprisingly, the underdogs managed a 1-1 draw against the tenth-highest ranked African team. That result has seen Les Coelecantes climb 15 places to 183rd on the global ladder, and they have also managed to leap over Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar to move to 48th in Africa.
One of the stars in the match against Burkina Faso was 23-year-old midfielder Fouad Bachirou, who plays for Greenock Morton in the second tier in Scotland. The France-born player was first approached by Comoros officials a few years ago, when he was still on the books of Paris Saint-Germain.
“At the time I was still very young, and I told them that I wanted to concentrate on my club career for the time being," he said. "I heard nothing else for a long time until this year, when I was contacted again and told about the friendly match against Burkina Faso and invited into the squad.”
We are all highly motivated. I think little stands in the way of Comoros having a great footballing future.
Nicknamed for the famous Indian Ocean fish, which was believed to be extinct but was then found in the waters around Comoros, Les Coelecantes had not played since December 2012, when they lost 2-0 away to Mauritius before drawing 0-0 at home to the same opponents. Coach Amir Abdou was, therefore, unsure what to expect from his team against the Burkina Faso.
“[Abdou] said that the federation lacked resources to play matches," said Bachirou. "As most of the players that would be considered for the national side play in Europe, there are always high costs involved to play matches. The coach said that things changed when the association received assistance from the world governing body FIFA, and that allowed the team to start playing matches again."
Bachirou, whose mother was born in the Comoros, thus making him eligible to play for the tiny archipelago of African islands, said that he felt immensely proud when he pulled on the national team jersey: “I was already so proud when I received the call-up earlier in the year, and then to actually play for my country, it was just unbelievable. Many of my family members travelled down to Marseille to watch the game and support the team, and that made it even more special.”
Many members of Bachirou's family still live in the Comoros, and he is hoping to play in front of them soon: “I have not been able to travel back for 12 years because of my football commitments, but I hope to keep my place in the team and play some matches in the Comoros.”
Bachirou eyes more progress
The Comoros' highest spot on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking is 164th, achieved in June 2011, which was five years on from their lowest position of 207th. Bachirou is confident the current squad will be able to take the country forward.
“The atmosphere in the team is terrific, and I can see that the whole country is behind the team," he said. "If we continue to receive the support of the federation, I think we can move forward. We have two games to go in the second round of the qualifiers for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations and if we manage to win those, we will go into the group phase.”
Bachirou believes new coach Amir Abdou could go on to make a big difference: “The gaffer has experience of coaching in France and that will make a difference to the team. We are all highly motivated and want to take the country forward. It is a young team that will improve and grow, and I think little stands in the way of Comoros having a great footballing future."
The Comoros players no longer have to look enviously at the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, as they have their fate in their own hands. Good results – like the one against Burkina Faso – will see them moving in the direction Bachirou believes they are destined.