Amir Abdou, the coach of Comoros, has stepped down after eight years in charge, believing the team needs a new direction.

It brings to an end one of the longest tenures of any African coach in command of a national team, as well as a fairytale climb for a country that was not even involved in international competition just two decades ago.

The Comoros’ rise from near the bottom of the international rankings to reaching the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon last month was fueled by the 49-year-old.

“These eight years will remain forever engraved in my memory,” Abdou said in a statement announcing his intentions

“Eight years of hard work, eight years marked by doubts, joys, disappointments, fatigue. Sometimes even annoyance, but in the end, I will only remember the positive events.

“Being a coach has been a big job. It has been a very exciting challenge and a great source of pride. I am very honoured to have had the chance to represent my own nation. It’s an indescribable feeling.

“I have decided to leave the position of coach after eight years because I think it is important not to fall into the trap of strict continuity. Sometimes you have to shake things up and dare to change to write new chapters.”

Abdou was an almost unintentional pick for the role, but as the Comoros grew stronger, he developed a well-deserved reputation, culminating in a first-ever qualification for the Nations Cup finals and subsequently a berth in the last 16.

At the Nations Cup, Abdou  led Comoros to a famous 3-2 victory over four-time African champions Ghana.

Abdou, a Marseille native, rose to notoriety in the French hamlet of Golfech, where he managed the local team to a legendary French Cup victory over third-placed Luzenac in 2013.

He was then noticed by the Comorian federation, which had only recently begun competing in international competition after joining Fifa, the world governing body, in 2005.

Abdou accepted an invitation to assist Henri Stambouli, the team’s first foreign coach, and thrilled at the chance to work with the former Marseille coach, who had previously led the national teams of Guinea, Mali, and Togo.

However, Stambouli chose to accept an offer from Montpellier at the last minute, and Abdou was propelled onto the international stage.

He went about convincing players from the diaspora to join the team, gradually raising the caliber of players from amateurs to those participating in the top three tiers of French football.

“It was difficult but I don’t think any of them regret a thing,” Abdou said in a previous interview. “There is a fervour, a love for the jersey and for the homeland.”

The team’s core is the big Comorian expatriate community in Marseille, which provided the push for Comoros to ascend from 198 out of 207 members when Abdou took control at the start of 2014 to 131 in the most recent Fifa rankings.

He worked as a social worker for the city of Agen until he got a proper contract with the Comorian Federation in 2018.

Abdou has also worked full-time as the coach of FC Nouadhibou in Mauritania for the past two years.

The Comorian Football Federation announced it would convene in the coming weeks to discuss the selection of a new coach in the wake of Abdou’s departure.