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Comoros Left-Back Goes In Goal At AFCON And Reinvents The Keeper Position

It's not that Chaker Alhadhur doesn't know how to use his hands, it's that he chooses not to (because it's cheating).

It would've been an incredible story by itself: The Comoro Islands, ranked 132nd in the world and with a population under 900,000, making its first-ever Africa Cup of Nations appearance and advancing to the last 16 to play the host and five-time champion Cameroon, but the stage at Paul Biya Stadium in Olembé became a global spectacle Monday when it was confirmed that Comoros' backup left-back, Chaker Alhadhur, would play as a makeshift goalkeeper because of injuries and Covid-19.

We'd already seen a number of upsets at this tournament and there was a question of how Cameroon would deal with its growing status as favorite following the early eliminations of Ghana, Algeria and Nigeria, whereas the Coelacanths of Comoros had nothing to lose.

During the national anthems Alhadhur — perhaps just glad to finally get on the pitch after receiving zero minutes during the group stage — couldn't repress a smile, like he knew something that we didn't. We'd soon figure out what that secret was: He's a damn fine goalkeeper. 

Outfitted in his home kit but given a proper keeper's number with electrical tape, Alhadhur went about playing the position as any outfield player does — preferring the two-handed, over-the-head throwing motion and electing to make clearances with his head. 

But our hero faced his first obstacle just seven minutes into the match when Comoros center back Jimmy Abdou was given a straight red for a nasty tackle from behind. Cameroon would still only land one shot on target before the halftime whistle, but it was a 29th-minute opener from Karl Toko Ekambi guided inside the far post from 14 yards out. 

Nothing Alhadhur could do about this one.

Despite being a man down, Comoros forced Cameroon's André Onana — who's already one of the world's best keepers but whose technique appeared godlike when compared with Alhadhur — into a couple great saves.  

The first 10 minutes of the second half were when Alhadhur really excelled. First, he denied Vincent Aboubakar's free header with a leg. 

Then he pulled off one of my favorite double saves ever. The first was a scrambling sprawl to again deny Aboubakar, but then Alhadhur sprang to his feet and — with momentum carrying him the wrong way — parried another effort before Comoros could clear. 

Aboubakar would finally beat Alhadhur to make it 2-0 in the 70th minute, and perhaps the keeper could've come off his line to make things more difficult for the striker, but I really appreciated how he kept his hands glued to his sides to avoid a handball. 

We thought the final 20 minutes would be all Cameroon vs. Alhadhur, but Comoros pulled a goal back in the 81st with the leading candidate for goal of the tournament.

Despite playing all that time a man down, Comoros finished with more shots on target than Cameroon (seven to six). 

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