IF ever there was a winner in defeat – on and off the pitch – it was the unknown, unbowed, unforgettable Chaker Alhadur.
Playing in goal as Comoros had all three keepers missing, the converted left-back captured hearts on social media as the TEN-MAN minnows pushed Cameroon close at Afcon.
The makeshift stopper was hailed as ‘more proactive than De Gea’ and ‘funny but amazing’ after making ‘four good saves’.
He won yet more fans when images were posted of him forgetting he was the goalie and putting his hands behind his back when expecting a shot.
Cameroon eventually squeezed into the quarter-finals by 2-1, Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar striking before a majestic free-kick consolation from Youssouf M’Changama.
Before the three goals, Comoros midfielder Nadjim Abdou had picked up a harsh early red card that left many predicting a landslide.
Instead, Alhadur conjured the greatest night of his playing career – in the most unexpected way.
The 30-year-old wideman plays at a decent club standard for second-placed Ligue 2 side Ajaccio.
But switching between the sticks he conjured four quality stops for the tournament debutants, notably a dumbfounding double block.
First, the ex-Nantes ace pawed the ball away in unorthodox fashion when diving at full stretch, then he conjured a reaction tip-away.
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Comoros were forced to field Alhadur in his unusual position as Salim Ben Boina was injured and Ali Ahamada and Moyadh Ousseini tested positive for Covid.
The nation ranked 132nd in the world had hoped Ahamada would be cleared to play as he tested negative in the morning.
But Confederation of African Football chiefs stuck to their strict protocols.
In the end, though, it left armchair viewers saluting a new hero.
One said of Alhadur: “You can’t blame him. He made 4 good saves!”.
Another fan replied: “Nobody blames him, good performance so far. Much respect.”
And this post spoke for many: “is funny but he did very well. Amazing performance.”
But how about this for a tribute to go out on: “Frankly this man won my heart. I was supporting him from the beginning of the match. Much respect.”
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