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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Comoros pick left-back Chaker Alhadhur in goal for Cameroon clash, Ahamada return blocked

22:46 GMT+3 24/01/2022
Chaker Alhadhur of Comoros
The Nations Cup minnows are without a recognised goalkeeper for Monday's Last 16 clash with hosts Cameroon in Yaounde

Comoros will use an outfield player in goal for the biggest match in their history after all three of their goalkeepers were ruled out of taking to the field against hosts Cameroon in Monday’s Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16 match.

Defender Chaker Alhadhur is the player selected by the Coelacantes for the unenviable task of having to keep a rampant Cameroon side — top scorers in the tournament so far — at bay for the minnows, ranked 132nd, as they contest their first ever knockout game at a major tournament.

All three of Comoros’ recognised goalkeepers were ruled out on Sunday; Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseni after returning positive Covid tests, and Salim Ben Boina due to a shoulder injury.

Ahamada had appeared primed to return to action on Monday after returning a negative test, only for the Confederation of African Football to block his return on the basis that he hadn’t completed a mandatory five-day isolation after initially testing positive.

The islanders returned 12 positive cases over the weekend, including head coach Amir Abdou, for whom assistant manager Yours Zerdouk will deputise during Monday’s meeting.

Comoros had anticipated this situation on Sunday, before the prospect of Ahamada’s return had been raised, with goalkeeper coach Jean-Daniel Padovani telling journalists that were in the process of identifying which outfield player would take responsibility for going in goal.

"We have met with the staff, talked things through, got all the healthy players together and tried to put things into perspective," Padovani began. “We've got some potential goalkeepers, and we’re laughing about it, we prefer to approach it this way. It’s funny.

“We've not exactly identified who will play in goal yet and even if we had, I wouldn't tell you.

"There are some who have shown during training sessions that they can play as a goalkeeper, but it's a strange situation, so we're working through all possible solutions.”

Plans to use Alhadhur in goal were put on ice earlier on Monday, with Comoros putting Ahamada and defensive midfielder Yacine Bourhane on a flight from Garoua to Yaounde after the pair tested negative and promptly ended their Covid isolation.

However, Caf later blocked the goalkeeper’s return to action after appearing to clarify the rules surrounding when a player can play after initially receiving a positive coronavirus test on Sunday evening, less than 24 hours before the meeting between the hosts and the Nations Cup minnows.

In light of these fleshed-out guidelines — which note that a player must quarantine for five days after his first positive diagnosis, regardless of any subsequent negative tests — Ahamada’s Yaounde return proved in vain.

Instead, it will fall to AC Ajaccio left-sider Alhadhur — currently playing in the French second tier — to deputise between the sticks on Monday evening.

The 30-year-old is one of the older heads in the Comoros squad, having made his debut for the minnows—competing in their first Nations Cup—in 2014.

The full-back has spent the entirety of his career in French football, with the likes of Nantes, Caen and Cheateauroux, but must now keep the Indomitable Lions — and their array of attacking options — at bay in the biggest match of his career.

Comoros are enjoying a memorable maiden performance at the biennial tournament, having defeated Ghana 3-2 on Tuesday to eliminate the four-time champions and advance to the knockout stage at their expense.

As well as all three goalkeepers, Nakibou Aboubakari, Bourhane, Mohamed M'Changama, Kassim Abdallah and Alexis Souahy are absent with the coronavirus, while Ben Boina, Faiz Selemani, and Kassim M’Dahoma are also missing for the contest, leaving the Comoros with just seven available substitutes from a possible 17.

Even without a recognised goalkeeper, Comoros would have been forced to honour the fixture against Cameroon as per a Caf directive issued before the tournament which outlined that teams would be required to play a match if they had a minimum of 11 players available.

"In the event of the absence of a goalkeeper,” the Caf statement read, “another player from the team must replace the goalkeeper, provided the total number of available players is at least eleven."