Togo players ordered home plead for chance to play on
Published 11/01/2010 | 05:00
TOGO's football team was returning home last night with the bodies of officials who died in an attack on their bus in Angola.
But the defiant footballers refused to give up their dream of playing in the African Nations Cup despite the atrocity, the country's sports minister said yesterday.
Christophe Tchao said that Togo had asked the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to find a way for the team to rejoin the competition later.
"We have ordered a three-day mourning," Mr Tchao said. "The players are leaving with the bodies of their fallen brothers and we have asked the CAF to find an arrangement so we can catch up with the competition later."
Togo's prime minister had earlier insisted Togo would pull out of the tournament following last Friday's attack by rebels, in which three people were killed.
Last night, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma arrived in Angola to attend the opening ceremony. He stressed that his country remained 100pc ready to host the World Cup, and said the Angolan attack had no bearing on that tournament.
It was the second attack on a sports team in a year. Last March, six policemen and a driver died when gunmen attacked a bus carrying Sri Lanka's cricket team in Pakistan.
Despite South African assurances, security analysts said outsiders involved in June's World Cup are unlikely to ignore the Angolan attack and will want to review security.
Prime Minister of Togo demanded they return home immediately. Gilbert Houngbo said that the team should not compete in the tournament and said that if they did they would be misrepresenting their nation. "If a team or some people present themselves under the Togolese flag, it will be a false representation," Mr Houngbo said.
A spokeswoman for the Manchester City player Emmanuel Adebayor, the Togo captain, said that the team was following government instructions and was expected to arrive back in Togo this afternoon.
"The Government has asked the team to return and that is what they are going to do," she said. "This was not a decision by Emmanuel Adebayor -- it was a collective decision."
Adebayor said that the players had wanted to play to honour those who died in the attack.
"The head of state (Faure Gnassingbe) has decided we will return," Adebayor told a French radio station. "There was a meeting between players yesterday and we said we were still footballers. We all decided to do something good for the country and play to honour those who died. Unfortunately, the head of state and the country's authorities have decided otherwise. We will pack up and go home.
"It was also our families and loved ones at home who called us," Adebayor added. "They told us we could continue if we wished but that it is the authorities who have the information. Is there going to be another attack? Nobody knows. If they asked us back, maybe they received a call saying that the threat was not passed.
An assistant coach, press officer and driver were killed in the ambush .The rebel group Front for the Liberation of Enclave of Cabinda has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The soccer must go on - See Sport