24 August 2017 09:29
· Fouad Bachirou stars for Comoros and Swedish side Ostersunds
· Ostersunds have climbed the divisions, knocked Galatasaray out of Europe
· Bachirou speaks about the club’s cultural challenges and what it can teach his national team
Singing on national TV. Writing a novel. Learning how to paint, then auctioning your best work. Performing the ballet ‘Swan Lake’ in front of a 3000-strong audience.
All daunting tasks, and impossible - surely - to imagine elite-level footballers undertaking any one of them. Yet Fouad Bachirou and his Ostersunds team-mates have not only dedicated their time to these cultural challenges, but relished doing so.
“The idea is to take us out of our comfort to bring us together through what we achieve as a group,” the midfielder explained to FIFA.com. “Because there will be times in football when things won’t go your way, and you will need to be ready to adapt and come together to find solutions. Putting on a ballet - obviously it’s not something footballers are used to. But you get together and find a way to make it work.
“Every year, the club start a new project and at the end of the year there’s a show. So we did the ballet show, last year it was singing on national TV, and previously we all had to work on paintings that were then auctioned for charity and write our own books.
“I like dancing, so ‘Swan Lake’ was probably my favourite. It was a bit nerve-wracking, as we had to perform the show in front of 3000 people. But the feeling after we did it was really exciting – you really felt like you had achieved something.
“We have so many different cultures in our team and things like that really bond us together and teach us how we can work as a group and help each other. There’s no doubt in my mind that it helps us when we’re out on the pitch.”
Ostersunds fast facts
Lowest ebb: Relegation to fourth tier in 2010
Rapid rise: Three promotions in the space of five seasons
Biggest result: 3-1 aggregate win v Galatasaray in UEFA Europa League qualifying
Ostersunds’ spectacular results over recent years offer the strongest possible support for Bachirou’s conviction. Plenty, of course, will not have heard of this little-known club from a remote Swedish region, especially as much of its short history has been spent languishing in the country’s third and fourth tiers. But the arrival of Daniel Kindberg, a former lieutenant in the Swedish army, and Englishman Graham Potter as chairman and coach respectively has transformed Ostersunds into a force to be reckoned with.
Successive promotions from the fourth and third tiers followed Potter’s appointment in 2011, and two years ago the club reached the Allsvenskan for the first time. Even then, their climb continued and, having won their first major trophy earlier this year by beating Norrkoping 4-1 in the Swedish Cup final, they stunned the football world last month by knocking Galatasaray out of the UEFA Europa League. This evening, they face off against Greek side PAOK for a place in the group stage.
Comoros fast facts
Lowest ebb: A run of 3084 days without a win
Rapid rise: Climbing 32 Ranking places in 2016
Biggest result: 0-0 draw vs Ghana in Russia 2018 qualifier in November 2015
Ostersunds, however, aren't the only fast-improving side for whom Bachirou plays. He also represents Comoros’ national team, a side that, as recently as last March, had gone over 3000 days without a win. Beating Botswana ended that run though, and more recent wins over Lesotho, Namibia and Mauritius – not to mention a hard-earned FIFA World Cup qualifying draw against Ghana – have helped propel these African minnows to new heights on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
“Comoros is a really small country, and not many people will know about the team,” acknowledged Bachirou. “We hardly played for years and that was one of the biggest problems. But since the current coach (Amir Abdou) came in at the same time as me in 2014, we have progressed so much.
"The Ghana players and staff were really complimentary about us after we drew against them. We just need to build on the progress we’ve made and I know from Ostersunds that little teams, with the right organisation, can sometimes do amazing things. Comoros need to believe we can do the same.
“I’m very passionate about helping the national team be a success. I was born in France but my mum is from Comoros and my older brothers and sisters were born there, so it’s a really strong family connection I have. My family are so proud of me every time I play for the national team, and the passion for football in the country is incredible. I really want to help them do something special.”