Togo to play after all
Togo changed its mind and voted to stay in the African Cup of Nations early Sunday, according to French sports daily L’Equipe on its website.
Despite Togo’s government wanting the squad to return home following the deadly ambush of the team bus in Angola on Friday, the tour party agreed to stay and play for the three who were killed and the eight wounded.
“The entire delegation just met and, after all, we’ll be on the pitch Monday to play against Ghana,” midfielder Alaixys Romao, who plays for French club Grenoble, told L’Equipe shortly before 1am local time.
Forward Thomas Dossevi told The Associated Press on Saturday in a phone interview that it will pull out of the tournament and fly out of Angola early Sunday. Efforts by The AP to reach a tournament spokesman and Dossevi after L’Equipe’s report were unsuccessful.
“People died for this tournament, others were injured. We can’t abandon them and leave like cowards,” Romao reportedly said. “If we stay here, it’s for them. But also so as not to give satisfaction to the rebels.
“Our government doesn’t necessarily agree with us but we are determined to play in this competition. The decision was taken unanimously.”
The ambush by separatist gunmen near Cabinda killed a Togo assistant coach, a team spokesman, and the Angolan bus driver, according to the team and Togo government. At least two players had gunshot wounds.
With tournament officials declaring the tournament will start on schedule on Sunday, and Togo’s Group B matches will remain in Cabinda, the tour party was met there on Saturday by most of the top officials of the Confederation of African Football, who implored Togo to stay.
CAF president Issa Hayatou, in offering his deepest sympathy, told Togo he’d received a guarantee from Angola Prime Minister Antonio Paulo Kassoma that security would be beefed up for all teams and at all venues.
“You came here to play football but unfortunately two of your brothers were killed,” Hayatou said. “I am feeling terribly bad and short of words.
“It is left to you to decide to stay in a competition synonymous with fraternity, brotherhood, friendship and solidarity.
“In case you decide to leave the competition, we will definitely understand your decision and it will be accepted. It is a difficult choice - individual and collective - you are the only ones who can decide.”
The Togo government, aside from wanting the party back home, demanded an apology on Saturday from Angola and African Cup organizers for basing the team in unruly Cabinda.
Togo government spokesman Pascal Bodjona said from the capital Lome that it was difficult to understand why Angolan authorities chose Cabinda to host cup matches when it knew “the area was a dangerous and risky zone.”
Bodjona said nobody informed Togo that it was hazardous to travel by road to Cabinda. – AP
Published Jan 10, 2010