Monday, January 11, 2010

Togos Africa Cup of Nations plans still unclear after horrific gun ambush


Confusion still reigns over whether Togo will remain in the African Nations Cup following Friday's attack on the team bus, with the country's prime minister urging the team to return home today.

A number of players have been quoted in the French media saying they are keen to play on as a mark of respect to those killed and injured in the attack in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, but prime minister Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo insists the team and support staff must come back to Togo today.

Reports claimed the Togo players had voted to continue in the tournament despite an earlier decision to withdraw as the death toll from the attack reportedly rose to three. But Houngbo today told L'Equipe: 'We understand the approach of players who wanted to express a way to avenge their fallen comrades, but it would be irresponsible on the part of the authorities to let them continue.

Turmoil: Togo star Emmanuel Adebayor

'The team must return today. The government's decision is unchanged.It is a conscious decision since Friday. If a team or a person presentthemselves under the banner of Togo, it would be a falserepresentation.'

Togo are due to face Ghana in their opening Group B match tomorrowin Cabinda, but government spokesperson Pascal Bodjona told reporters:'We can't continue in these dramatic circumstances in the AfricanNations Cup. It was necessary because our players are in shock.'
However, the Togo players seem to be of a different mind to theirgovernment, with midfielder Alaixys Romao and forward Thomas Dosseviboth revealing the team's intent to stay on. Romao told L'Equipe: "We have all just met and we will be on the pitch to playagainst Ghana on Monday".

'People died for this African Nations Cup, others were injured. We cannot abandon them and go like cowards'.

Tragedy: Togo assistant coach Abalo Amelete was killed

'If we stay here it is for them. But also so as not to satisfy the rebels. 'Our government does not necessarily agree with us but we are all determined to play in this tournament. The decision was taken unanimously.'

Dossevi concurred, saying: 'We are all heartbroken, it is no longer a party,but we want to show our national colours, our values and that we are men.'

Romao today claimed Chelsea's Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba was 'not ready' to play in the competition.

'Drogba said he was fully aware of the psychological state he was in, and he too was not ready to play this CAN,' the Grenoble player added. 'It is now hoped that other teams will show solidarity.'

Team-mate Assimiou Toure has spoken of his terror at the attack and revealed he could only pray he and his colleagues would get out alive.

Attack: Serge Akakpo was wounded

The 22-year-old Bayer Leverkusen player told Germany's Bild am Sonntagnewspaper: 'It was horrible. I was scared to death. The driver and two others on the bus were hit in their lower body and othersgot bullets in their calf.

'They have undergone surgery and are in intensive care.
'Nothing happened to me. Thank God I was sat in the penultimate row at theback. They shot at the front of the bus.'

The Togo team had ignored warnings to arrive in Angola by plane and insteadtravelled by coach with an army escort.The escort, according to Toure, prevented a massacre.
'We were coming from the Congo and were only about 10 minutes away from the Angolan border with our two buses,' he explained.

'In the middle of the forest, we were suddenly ambushed and shot at. We were fortunate - they absolutely peppered the first bus with bullets, probably thinking that we were all sitting in there, but that was only our luggage.

'The whole thing lasted about half an hour. We had an escort and they shot back and kept the attackers in check and called for assistance. If the army had not been there, then none of us would be alive now. 'All I could do was jump under my seat and pray.'

The separatist group The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda(FLEC), which were reported to have claimed responsibility for the attack, have now denied they carried it out.
When contacted in the early hours as to whether Togo would continue in thetournament, a spokesman for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said: 'I don't know, I am not aware so far. 'I've not heard any communication.'

The apparent u-turn comes hours after CAF president Issa Hayatou insisted any decision to withdraw would be accepted, although he did not officially confirmTogo's departure.

Chaos: Moments after the attack on the Togolese team Hayatou met with Angola president Jose Eduardo dos Santos yesterday andreceived assurances security would be increased for the tournament, which begins today when the hosts meet Mali.

Following the meeting, Hayatou flew to Cabinda to meet the Togo and Ghana players as well as the Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast teams who make up Group B,accompanied by almost the entire executive members of CAF, the general secretaryand the executive director of COCAN, the organisers of the 2010 competition.

When addressing the Togo squad, Hayatou spoke of the tragedy and stressed they had a difficult choice to make. 'We are in a deep shock following the tragic incident that happened to our Togolese brothers and friends,' said Hayatou on the CAF website,
'You came here to play football but unfortunately two of your brothers were killed. I am feeling terribly bad and short of words.
'It is left to you to decide to stay in a competition synonymous offraternity, brotherhood, friendship and solidarity.
'And in case you decide to leave the competition, we will definitely understand your decision and it will be accepted.'

Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor, the Togo captain, was on board, as was Aston Villa midfielder Moustapha Salifou while a host of Premier League clubs, including Chelsea and Arsenal, have players competing at the tournament.

Premier League stars to flee Africa: Emmanuel Adebayor pulls out as terror attack leaves three dead Togo pull out of Africa Cup of Nations after horror terrorist bus attack in Cabinda Togo players 'machine-gunned like dogs' as team bus comes under attack

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