Sanction threat against Togo adds insult to injury
THE Togo football team were threatened with punishment yesterday after their withdrawal from the Africa Cup of Nations, adding outrageous insult to the grievous injuries they have suffered.
The organiser of the competition, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), is understood to be examining possible sanctions for the Togolese who decided to return home after three people were killed when the squad were attacked by gunmen in Angola.
An unnamed member of CAF told a French news agency that there would be a formal gathering at the end of the month of the body's executive committee which would discuss what happened and that the meeting "provides for sanctions". If such measures were taken it would lead to an outcry in world football.
Togo were officially disqualified from the tournament but Ghana -- including the Chelsea midfielder, Michael Essien -- were told that they would still be expected to go to the new Chazi stadium in the volatile enclave of Cabinda today, even though their opponents had flown home for a three-day period of national mourning.
At one stage the CAF said it would expect Ghana to change for the match, and the referee to start the game as normal even though Togo were absent.
Group B will now go ahead with just three nations -- Ghana, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso -- with two progressing to the quarter-finals. Each of the other countries is expected to be awarded a 3-0 walkover result for their unplayed match against the Togolese, who reacted to developments with a rising sense of anger.
Earlier Emmanuel Adebayor had told reporters that Togo might come back and fulfil their final two fixtures, and there were suggestions that Ghana would be happy to rearrange their match. However, the CAF said it would not be possible to change the schedule while Togo's prime minister Gilbert Houngbo insisted that, contrary to suggestions from the country's sports minister, there had never been plans to return to the competition.
"We have simply withdrawn our team, it is not a matter of withdrawing for the mourning period," he said. "The information that has been circulated on some websites saying the players are just back for three days' mourning and will then go back playing is quite wrong. We withdrew the team on the basis that they were the victim of a terrorist attack."
With the incident in danger of descending into a serious political row, Mr Houngbo also attacked the way Togo had been treated by tournament organisers and claimed the final decision to withdraw had been made only after they failed to provide support and assessment of the situation.
"We will have hoped that one can have serene discussions with the host country, with the confederation, to assess what has happened, assess what one has to do. We received no co-operation from the confederation in terms of any kind of assessment. Our analysis is that they want it (the attack) to be seen as a non-event and the show must go on as planned."
Angolan police announced they had arrested two people -- members of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda -- following the attack in which an assistant coach, press officer and bus driver were killed. Chelsea striker Didier Drogba said he and his Ivory Coast team-mates had been left "shattered" by the events. (© Daily Telegraph, London)