Emergency Comoros Goalkeeper Plays with Taped-On Number at AFCON

A bizarre COVID-related situation led to an even more bizarre sight on the pitch during the African Cup of Nations on Monday.

During the round of 16 match between hosts Cameroon and the Comoros, Comoros goalkeeper Chaker Alhadhur took to the pitch wearing a kit with his number 3 taped on the back overtop the number 16.

Photo courtesy @MozoFootball / Twitter

Alhadhur also had the numbers on the front of his jersey and on his shorts taped over.

Comoros was facing a crisis heading into the match, their first-ever appearance in the round of 16 at AFCON. They had 12 players ruled out of the match due to positive COVID-19 tests, including all three of their goalkeepers.

This meant that Alhadhur — who stands only five-foot-seven and normally plays as a defender — had to start between the goalposts.

The Comoros team knew they’d be without a goalkeeper at least a day before the game against Cameroon, as their coach talked about the situation in a press conference on Sunday. So what likely happened is that the team made up a goalkeeper kit for Alhadhur with the number 16, which had been assigned to goalkeeper Moyadh Ousseni.

But rules often prohibit players from changing their squad number during a tournament, regardless of position. In order to comply, the Comoros team likely then had to tape Alhadhur’s assigned number 3 onto the back of his shirt, and blank out the number on the front of the jersey and the shorts.

Photo courtesy Footy Headlines

Cameroon defeated Comoros 2-1 in the match to advance to the quarterfinals. Alhadhur — who plays his club football for French Ligue 2 side AC Ajaccio — asserted himself well in goal, though, making four saves.

Comoros thought they had a lifeline on Monday morning when keeper Ali Ahamada tested negative for COVID. But, according to The Guardian, Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) rules state that a player must have a negative PCR test 48 hours before his team’s next match in order to play, so he had to sit out. CAF rules also state that, as long as a team has 11 players available — regardless of position — the game must be played.

The goalkeeper kit Alhadhur wore on Monday was blue, with darker blue sleeves. This is the same kit Ahamada wore in Comoros’s opening group stage match against Gabon, and is similar to the country’s third outfield kit, which is dark blue with lighter blue sleeves.

Comoros goalkeeper Ali Ahamada during their opening group stage match against Gabon.

The Comoros is a small nation made up of three islands in the Indian Ocean between the eastern coast of Africa and Madagascar. It is the fourth-smallest African nation by area (1,861 square kilometres) and the seventh-smallest by population (estimated at 806,200 in 2016).

Feature photo courtesy TVP.pl