Togo pulled out of the Africa Cup of Nations last night following the gun attack on the team bus on Friday in Angola, which killed at least four people. Their forward Thomas Dossevi voiced players’ criticism of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) for refusing to postpone the tournament’s start so that the squad could “bring our dead people home”. Reports from the newswire AP claimed that Dossevi had said Togo would have been willing to participate if a delay had been agreed.
According to Alaixys Romao, Togo midfielder, the players were at the airport waiting to return home, and were also encouraging other teams to pull out of the competition. “We’re waiting for the plane to return to Lome,” the Grenoble player told L’Equipe.
“We’re also talking to the other teams in our group to try to convince them to boycott the competition too.” Togo were due to kick off their campaign against Ghana on Monday.
Manchester City confirmed their striker Emmanuel Adebayor – the Togo captain – was returning home. “He is on his way back from Angola but we are not sure exactly where his flight is headed,” said City spokesman Simon Heggie. “The lines of communication between the club and Emmanuel have been open all day, we have spoken to his advisors and his girlfriend and he is coming home.”
Adebayor said that in the aftermath of the attack many of the squad’s players wanted to go home. “I think a lot of players want to leave. I don’t think they want to be at this tournament any more because they have seen their death already,” he said. “Most of the players want to go back to their family. No one can sleep after what they have seen. They have seen one of their team-mates have a bullet in his body, who is crying, who is losing consciousness and everything.”
Even though the Organizers have so far insisted the tournament will go ahead as scheduled, Togo’s coach, Hubert Velud, has strongly recommended it be called off. Angolan authorities, on their part continue to maintain that their country is committed to hosting a secure competition and said they would step up security.
The Front for the Liberation of Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), the separatist group which which was earlier reported to have claimed responsibility for the attack, have now denied they carried it out. A denial statement from the group stated, “We vigorously condemn this barbaric act and repeat the commitment to strive for dialogue, reconciliation and peace in Cabinda.
The incident refocuses the attention on security issues while organizing sporting events on the African continent. FIFA will have to redouble its efforts to insure the World Cup in is made absolutely to safe for everyone involved – the players,organizers and the fans.