After earning a 'dream' qualification, the tiny island nation of Comoros is ready to take on a continent at the Africa Cup of Nations

    Comoros will make its AFCON debut in this year's tournament.

    (CNN)Away from questions about whether the upcoming African Cup of Nations (AFCON) would take place amid the pandemic, the tiny archipelago nation of Comoros has been preparing for its debut on the continent's biggest stage.

    The achievement of qualifying for Africa's biennial football tournament is difficult to overstate given the size and footballing history of Comoros.
    Located just off the east coast of Africa, it is the continent's fourth-smallest country with a population of less than 900,000. Nicknamed Les Coelacanthes (the Coelacanths) -- that moniker coming from a rare species of tropical fish which inhabits the native waters of the Indian Ocean -- the team was only admitted as a member of FIFA, football's global governing body, in 2005.
      The dream of reaching the AFCON finals became a reality in March 2021 after a typically hard-fought 0-0 draw against Togo, but the story of Comoros' unlikely success can be traced back to 2014 when head coach Amir Abdou took over with a new vision for the team.
        In light of Comoros' limited footballing infrastructure, Abdou chose to lean on the nation's diaspora, particularly in France, to find the best set of players possible. Speaking to CNN Sport, Abdou admitted that this was no easy process as many of the players, having been born and brought up in Europe, were uncertain about the prospect of competing for Comoros.
        "When you are a small country proposing a project to these players, it's very difficult to get them to say I want to come to Comoros when we don't know what we can offer in terms of safety," he said.
        Abdou looks on during the qualifying match between Morocco and Comoros in October 2018 ahead of the 2019 AFCON.
        Abdou took a frank approach to the persuasion process and met with the players in question to build meaningful relationships with them: "We had a conversation with all our national players which was very important to convince them and build a mutual trust between us."