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Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Saturday, 24 October 2009 12:30 UK

Comoros make steps forward

By Steve Vickers
BBC Fast Track, Bulawayo

Comoros national football team, nicknamed "The Coelecanths"
"The Coelecanths" have made a splash at the Cosafa Senior Challenge

"There are no small teams in Africa" is a well-worn cliché, but like many clichés it has a grain of truth.

And the Comoros are the latest footballing nation to prove it.

They may be 199 out of 207 in Fifa's rankings and have only three year's experience in international football.

But the Indian Ocean islanders have made significant progress at this year's Cosafa Senior Challenge in Zimbabwe.

In 2008 they lost all three games in the competition without scoring a goal.

In this year's tournament they held Botswana to a goalless draw and then beat a well-organised Seychelles side 2-1.

Their hopes of reaching the last eight were dashed by a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Swaziland, but it was still a huge improvement.

"We have players with good technique, but they lack experience," coach Abderamane Chamite told the BBC's African sports programme Fast Track.

"We came here with a completely new squad - our team has been underestimated all along and I think that this marks an improvement for our side."

Captain Mohamed Mouigni is not afraid to take on bigger teams, but he knows that his squad has challenges to overcome.

Abderamane Chamite, coach of Comoros national football team
Comoros coach Abderamane Chamite wants his team to be competitive

"The disadvantage we have in Comoros is that there is no youth academy," he told the BBC.

"I started playing when I was 16, in my village team, then I was recruited by a bigger club.

"We are quite aware that we are facing higher-ranked sides with better facilities, youth academies and professional players, when we are just amateurs, but we are not scared."

Comoros are nicknamed the "Coelacanths" - after a rare giant fish that can be found in the Indian Ocean around the islands.

But can they themselves grow from footballing minnows into big fish?

Coach Chamite is hesitant to predict that Comoros will be playing at the Africa Cup of Nations in the near future, especially after a 10-2 aggregate defeat to Madagascar in the preliminary round of 2010 qualifying.

"It's certainly a dream and anyone is allowed to dream, but there are a lot of challenges in front of us," he said.

"For now it's more realistic to aim to be competitive in our region against the likes of Madagascar and Seychelles."

Here in Zimbabwe, the Comoros have started on that long road with admirable style.

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see also
Botswana through to meet Zimbabwe
22 Oct 09 |  African
Cosafa boost for Zimbabwe
03 Sep 09 |  African

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