The man from the island of giant bats flies into Sheffield

**PHOTO BY DARREN ROBINSON** 'Mossley v Oldham Athletic (Pre-season friendly).'PIC shows Youssouf Mchangama.'DDR12-07-11/55AXXX
**PHOTO BY DARREN ROBINSON** 'Mossley v Oldham Athletic (Pre-season friendly).'PIC shows Youssouf Mchangama.'DDR12-07-11/55AXXX

HE will arrive at Bramall Lane tomorrow and create barely a murmur.

But, 5,000 miles away in Comoros, Youssouf M’Changama is a really big noise.

The tiny archipelago situated just off Africa’s south eastern coast is probably best known for its reserves of vanilla, cloves and a colony of giant bats.

However, since 1979, it has boasted a national football team too and M’Changama, the Oldham Athletic midfielder, is spearheading the islands’ efforts to establish themselves on the sporting map.

“We are a very young side but we are very ambitious and hopeful of doing well,” he told The Star. “And when we have matches they are special occasions indeed.

“Everyone there is so happy to see us when we go back and the welcome is always very special. We might not be the most famous name but together we have a big heart.

“It is exciting to be a part of something like this.”

M’Changama, aged 22, is among a wave of French players with Comoran heritage who have declared their allegience to the cause.

Millwall’s Nadjim Abdou is another identified during the brief but eventful reign of head coach Ali Mbae Camara’s predecessor Manuel Amoros which saw the former European Championship winner trawl through western Europe for eligible talent.

“I’m from Marseille but I’m very proud to represent Comoros,” M’Changama continued. “And one of the reasons is that it has made my parents, who were born there, very happy indeed.

“I wear their shirt with immense pride.”

Granted FIFA membership in 2005 and 190th - one place above Papua New Guinea but below Cambodia - in the world rankings, Comoros have nevertheless posted some encouraging results of late.

Last year Zambia, who went on to win the African Cup of Nations, required an 88th minute effort to triumph 2-1 in Cheikh after M’Changama had clawed the hosts’ level while finalists Mozambique were, according to impartial observers, also fortunate to prevail by a single goal. Funds from the world governing body’s Goal programme have helped build a synthetic pitch and technical centre near the capital Moroni.

In a country of picture postcard beaches but ravaged by political instability and heavily dependent upon foreign aid, the beautiful game is proving a powerful force for good.

“Football brings a lot of happiness to the people of Comoros,” M’Changama said. “Many of them don’t have much money and must work hard in their daily lives so we try and do well for them whenever we play.

“They love football and there are teams and competitions across the country. Each island, for example, has its own tournament.

“Some of Les Coelecantes are living there and hopefully, in time, there will be even more.

“But I think that people such as Nadjim and myself, who are playing abroad, have a responsibility to try and raise standards.

“If more of the people from Comoros can experience doing the same then I am sure that will happen.”

With almost half the population aged under 15, Comoros’ potential is beyond question.

M’Changama, who arrived at Oldham via CS Sedan and Troyes, could inspire youngsters from towns such as Mutsamudu, Domoni and Fomboni to pursue careers overseas.

With Paul Dickov’s side crossing the Pennines in resurgent form, however, helping the visitors repeat their success in last season’s corresponding fixture is his most pressing concern.

Forged in their manager’s own feisty image, Oldham always provide combative opposition.

But acquiring the services of Matt Derbyshire, previously of Olympiakos, has given the Lancastrians a real cutting edge.

Derbyshire, signed on loan from Nottingham Forest, has netted three times in six outings following his move to Boundary Park.

A record which has helped Oldham climb to 16th in the League One table, nine points behind unbeaten United who are third.

“This is a very special club, a family club,” M’Changama said. “And that is very important, especially for me, because I am from elsewhere and so feel very settled.

“Every match is important but this is one we look forward to of course. And one that we hope to win.”