Togo PM orders national soccer team to leave Angola
Togo's prime minister on Sunday recalled the country's soccer team from the African Cup of Nations, accusing host Angola of failing to protect the players following a deadly ambush on their bus that killed three and injured eight.
The players themselves said they wanted to stay and compete in honor of the dead, who included their assistant coach, a team spokesman and the Angolan bus driver.
Togo Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo said the players were still in a state of shock Sunday and were not secure. He said that Togo's presidential plane has been dispatched to Angola to take the team back to Lome.
An Associated Press reporter in Cabinda said an Air Togo plane was seen flying near the airport.
"Angola and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) have not taken adequate security measures to ensure the safety of the Togolese national team," Houngbo said.
On Saturday, the Togo government had also ordered the team to leave, but the Togo soccer team on Sunday confirmed that they wanted to play.
The Togo team was ambushed Friday in an attack blamed on militants fighting for the independence of Cabinda, a region of Angola cut off from the rest of the country by a strip of Congo. At least two players had gunshot wounds. The team's goalkeeper was flown to South Africa for emergency surgery.
"The players understood that they had to play - to honor the dead," Confederation of African Football spokesman Kodzo Samlan told The Associated Press after speaking with the team.
Midfielder Alaixys Romao, who plays for French League 1 club Grenoble, told L'Equipe in an interview that the squad and officials met Saturday and elected to go ahead with the tournament, starting with their opening match against Ghana on Monday.
"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," he said.
Samlan - who is also secretary-general of Togo's soccer federation - said by telephone from Benguela, Angola, that the team had voted to stay but were awaiting approval from the Togo government to remain.
"We still stand by our decision to demand the return of our national team from Angola. Nothing has reversed that decision," Houngbo said.
Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor told local station Radio Ecclesia, "We are going to try everything to stay here and play in the tournament because we are very lucky to survive this attack."
However, he added, "We are children of the Togo and we will abide by the decision of our government."
With tournament officials declaring the tournament will start on schedule on Sunday, and with Togo's Group B matches to be played in restive Cabinda, the tour party was met there on Saturday by most of the top officials of the CAF, who implored Togo to stay.
CAF president Issa Hayatou said 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.
The Angolan government built a new stadium in Cabinda for pool play in the African Cup. - AP
Published Jan 10, 2010