Dark day for African soccer

2010-01-10 13:34

THE staging of the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola has been thrown

into turmoil following Togo’s decision to withdraw from the tournament.

This was after the West African team bus was ambushed on Friday in

which two of the team’s delegation were killed and several others injured. The

attack on the bus has overshadowed the build-up to the tournament.

The tournament kicks off this evening when the hosts play Mali at

8pm in the capital city Luanda.

Togolese officials named the dead men as media officer Stanislas

Ocloo and assistant coach Amalete Abalo, and said reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi

Obilale had been evacuated to Johannesburg for medical treatment.

Obilale, who sustained two gunshots to his lower back, arrived at

Milpark Hospital from Lanseria Airport at 6.15pm yesterday.

“We lost the assistant coach and the press officer,” said Messan

Attelou, chief spokesperson for Togo’s soccer federation.

According to Netcare chief executive Dr Richard Friedland, Obilale

was conscious and in stable condition. “He is fully receptive and aware of what

is happening around him.”

Friday’s attack, in which the driver was also killed and seven

others were injured, took place in Cabinda, a province where guerrillas have

fought a secession campaign for ­decades.

According to CNN, Togo captain and Manchester City striker Emmanuel

Adebayor told his English club that the Togo players were now heading home to

their families after deciding to leave Angola.

City’s head of media relations Simon Heggie, who also represents

Adebayor, told CNN that the players met on Saturday morning in the wake of the

previous day’s assault by rebel fighters near the border between Angola and the

Republic of Congo.

Adebayor said the attack would hurt the image of Africa as a whole.

“We keep repeating (that) – Africa, we have to change our image if

we want to be respected – and unfortunately that is not happening,” Adebayor

told the BBC World ­Service.

“A lot of players want to leave. They have seen death and want to

go back to their families.”

The 2010 World Cup organisers were quick to assure the world that

the Angola incident would not impact on the staging of the spectacle in

June.

Rich Mkhondo, LOC media manager, said the incident would not impact

on preparations for the 32-team tournament that begins on June 11.

“To suggest otherwise would be like saying that such an incident in

the Czech Republic, for example, would have an impact on an event in Britain,”

said Mkhondo.

Organisers earlier said the competition would continue despite the

attack.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that World Cup organiser Danny Jordaan

and President Jacob Zuma moved swiftly to dispel international concerns that the

attack threatened the World Cup.

“It has no impact on our World Cup,” Jordaan said from Luanda where

he is to act as match commissioner for today’s Nations Cup opener between Angola

and Mali.

And Zuma’s spokesperson Victor Magwenya said the president still

planned to travel to Angola to attend the opening ceremony.

Jordaan said: “The world understands that sovereign countries are

responsible for their own safety and security and to say what happened in Angola

impacts on the World Cup in South Africa is the same as suggesting that when a

bomb goes off in Spain, it threatens London’s ability to host the next

Olympics.

“It is nonsensical for South Africa to be tainted with what happens

in Angola, which is not even one of our neighbouring countries.”

Jordaan said the bus attack was a blow for hosts Angola.

“I feel very sorry for the Angolans because they have spent

billions on fixing up their cities and building infrastructure for this

tournament. This was going to be the event that would mark their transition from

decades of war to a new social and economic order. In that context, it’s a

blow.”

Former African Footballer of the Year and president of Zambia’s

football association Kalusha Bwalya said the attack was a huge setback for

African football.

“It’s a very negative blow for Africa and our football,” he said.

“It’s really disturbing that something like this has happened in

the months leading up to the World Cup.”

Former Togo coach Otto Pfister said there was no need for

panic.

“But the shocking attack in Angola will be projected on to the

World Cup in South Africa,” said Pfister.


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