African Cup of Nations: the crazy team of the Comoros

They are there and it’s amazing: the players of the Comoros, with the gratin of continental football for this African Cup of Nations in Cameroon, representing for the first time their small archipelago of 850,000 inhabitants, a real feat. Defeated by Gabon for their entry into the competition (1-0), they face Morocco this Friday, January 14 with the firm intention of showing that they are not “not here by chance”, insists their coach Amir Abdou.

→ REREAD. CAN 2022: figures of African football denounce the contempt of which the competition would be the victim

He knows well, the master at playing, what they went through to be able to jump into the big leagues. An incredible outfit combining determination, consistency, friendships and the fervor of an entire people. A rare story, written out of nothingness and with uncertain ink.

The incredible energy of coach Amir Abdou

Because what are the Comoros on the football planet, when the adventure begins in 2014? The microstate vaguely has a national team recognized by the International Federation (Fifa) only in 2005, and at the bottom of the hole in the early 2010s. Due to lack of money, the team cannot participate in the playoffs of the CAN 2013. For two years, the Comoros therefore disappear from the international circuit.

To rebuild on this nothing, the local Federation hopes to recruit Henri Stambouli, ex-trainer of Marseille in the 1990s. Except that the negotiations fall apart at the last moment. And so here is on the track the one who was to play the assistants, Amir Abdou. A former amateur player forced to put away his crampons due to injuries, the Franco-Comorian, who lives in the south-west of France, converted to an educator, and then coaches an honorary division team (sixth level national). At the same time, he exercises his profession as a territorial civil servant in the youth service of his small town of Bon-Encontre, near Agen (Lot-et-Garonne).

Amir Abdou therefore finds himself almost by default embarked on a project which he will completely take over, with mad energy. To rebuild the selection from A to Z, he is betting on the French diaspora and the very large community, established mainly in the Marseille region. It is still necessary to convince these dual nationals to try the adventure. But he knows how to find the words, and make the conquered troops stay.

Crazy proportions

The results help, the selection going from 193and at 127and world rank in three years. Corn “It’s a permanent fight”, says the coach. And with inevitably reduced means in one of the poorest countries in the world. He himself is only employed by the Federation from 2017. He must struggle to structure a framework worthy of players accustomed to European standing, even if it is that of the lower divisions. The Federation does not have an equipment supplier? A local brand is created, Maana Sport, which supplies free of charge, without a real contract.

And the case progresses, with ups and downs. On the archipelago, the enthusiasm for breeding is taking on crazy proportions. For the worse sometimes. During the CAN 2017 qualifying campaign, after missing the equalizing penalty against Uganda, the players left the stadium under stones. “Hell, summarizes Amir Abdou in an interview with the Bal des productions press agency. But we hung on. »

So comes the best, often. On the second day of qualifying for the current CAN, the Comoros won, in their new Malouzini stadium in Moroni financed by Chinese capital, an unexpected 0-0 draw against the Egyptian giant. The crowd massed in the stands, filled to double the capacity of the enclosure, surges onto the lawn. The announcer screams to ask for the evacuation, arguing for a possible cancellation of the result. In less than three minutes, the supporters wisely resume their place in the stands!

popular fervor

Above all, we must not hinder the march of national heroes who will qualify a few months later, triggering incredible popular jubilation. The team pleases all the more that it does not crown any star. Bonus to the collective, with 17 players out of 28 playing in France. “This group is above all a family before being a football team”, underlined the sports director Djamal Mohamed before the start of the CAN. The subject is not overused.

And the team, which has reached maturity (28 years on average), hopes to establish itself in the landscape. After two years without an equipment supplier, a new Italian partner (Macron Sports) is at its side for four years, and a new federal management is thinking about a more sustainable development, allowing to convince even more dual nationals to join the “Cœlacanthes”, the nickname of the selection. They are there, and maybe for a long time.


The Gambia, the other novice

In 2019, Burundi, Mauritania and Madagascar discovered the event, with happiness for Madagascar which climbed for its first until the quarter-finals (eliminated by Tunisia 3-0). This year, alongside the Comoros, it is Gambia which also plays the novices. Like the Coelacanths, the Scorpions owe their qualification to the patient work of recruiting a workforce, of which 27 of the 28 players play abroad, entrusted since 2018 to Belgian technician Tom Saintfiet, a frequent traveler on the continent (passed through Namibia, Ethiopia, Malawi and Togo). Winner of the first match against Mauritania (1-0) this Wednesday, January 12, Gambia, 150and in the FIFA rankings, will have a lot to do to qualify against Mali (January 16) and Tunisia (January 20).


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The lonely life of a billionaire who spends money to buy ‘joy’

John earned a doctorate in natural sciences and founded the Delaware Museum of Natural History but later on, his interests diverged into wrestling. John also tried other sports, like swimming and pentathlons, even winning a spot on the 1976 Olympic team.

But after a horseback accident, John suffered a severe injury that had to have both testicles removed. The doctor prescribed, John needs to avoid all sports that can cause injury. But for John, that only added to his lonely insecurity. He dabbled in more violent forms of advocacy.

In 1985, John opened a 1,300-square-foot training center on his family estate and renamed it Foxcatcher Farms, dreaming of building an Olympic-winning wrestling team. John also donated up to 3 million USD to the National Wrestling Council, USA Wrestling. In return, his name appeared on the team’s warm-up jersey and on the title of the national freestyle wrestling championship and Olympic qualification.

Initially, John hired Mark Schultz, an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler with a salary of up to $ 70,000 to train his team of athletes. Foxcatcher. It didn’t take long for Mark to be disappointed with the way John was treating him, nothing more than a luxury toy that could be bought but not appreciated.

Mark quit his job, ceding this position to his younger brother, Dave Schultz, a 7-time world and Olympic champion wrestler, who was known as the “ambassador” of wrestling, respected by people in the profession.

Dave Schultz (white shirt) this time became John du Pont’s confidant. Photo: NYdaily news

As someone with dyslexia, Dave is no stranger to pranks since childhood. Maybe that’s why Dave feels sorry for the eccentric billionaire, John du Pont. Dave immediately agreed to work for John, despite the humiliation his brother told him, experienced while working with John.

Dave Schultz is the only one who can “handle” John’s impulsive, impulsive behavior. But after his mother died in 1988, John broke down. Life at the training camp Foxcatcher become a hell on earth.

At the age of 50, John became increasingly capricious, self-identifying as Jesus and the Lama, insisting that Disney characters could be seen hiding in his mansion or trees uprooting and marching on their own. around the land.

He opened fire on a flock of geese believing they were using dark magic against him and threw all the treadmills out of the building thinking they were trying to reverse time.

He hired security companies to inspect the floorboards for secret tunnels. The walls were also chipped open to find intruders who, according to John, were lurking around to watch him every moment. More than psychotic, John lost his mind from a cocaine overdose and heavy alcohol use.

His delusions spill over into the lives of the member wrestlers Foxcatcher. John would sometimes rush into the training area with a gun, threatening and kicking a few people. After this happened several times, one wrestler decided to call the local police. “He is definitely getting closer and closer to doing something horrible if not stopped,” the person warned.

Fearing for their safety, Dave and his wife started talking about leaving Foxcatcher, Their relationship with the billionaire friend began to crack. John, who has always considered Dave as the only friend in his life that doesn’t have to be “buy” with money, now turns to hatred and hatred.

In early 1996, John had almost completely neglected his life, staying at home for a whole month. Wrestling team Foxcatcher reduced from 30 people to only 4.

Jhn du Pont is alone, deranged after the death of his mother and engulfed in brandy and cocaine.  Photo: NYdaily news

Jhn du Pont is alone, deranged after the death of his mother and engulfed in brandy and cocaine. Photo: NYdaily news

January 26, 1996, In a silver Lincoln, John du Pont drove to Dave’s house, who was repairing his car outside in the yard, and shot him three times with a revolver. At the window, Dave’s wife pulled back the curtain and looked out in panic, threatened by John with a gun before driving away.

After Dave was shot dead, a two-day confrontation ensued between John, in a 44-room mansion with a massive arsenal of weapons, and 75 local police.

The police eventually cut off the power. During the blizzard that soon followed, John surrendered to the cold.

When he was put on trial in 1997, John pleaded not guilty “by reason of insanity”. One of the psychiatrists diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. In the end, the jury found him guilty but mentally ill and sentenced him to 30 years in prison.

From prison, John ordered the exterior of the family mansion to be painted black, including the windows. John du Pont died in his cell in December 2010 at the age of 72, still alone.

In contrast, Dave Schultz’s passing was marked by a crowded memorial service held a month later. The President of USA Wrestling gave a lengthy speech in which he described Dave as a man with “10,000 best friends”.

To date, in the list Top 400 richest AmericansJohn was the only one found guilty of murder. After the death of the heir, as of 2016, the du Pont family fortune was estimated at $14.3 billion, spread among more than 3,500 living relatives.

The story of lonely billionaire John du Pont was recreated in 2014 in the movie Foxcatcher, the movie helps Director Bennet Miller won Best Director at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. For his role as John du Pont, actor Steve Carell was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Hai Thu (Follow All that interesting, NYT, Medium, Washington post)