Togo prepared to stay

2010-01-09 18:16
A picture grabbed on the Televisao Publico de Angola channel shows unidentified players of the Togolese national football team comforting each other. (AFP)
Luanda - Africa's controlling footballing body CAF said on Saturday that they had been approached by the Togo football federation to be allowed to play their Africa Cup of Nations games elsewhere.

The West African country had earlier said they were considering whether to remain at the tournament in Angola after a terrorist attack on their team bus left the bus driver dead and at least two players injured.

The bus came under machine-gun fire shortly after entering Angola on Friday and the attack was later claimed by the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) - which has threatened further attacks during the tournament.

A CAF spokesman told German Press Agency dpa from Cabinda that they had been approached by Togo officials with a request to play their Group B matches at a different venue.

Mahmoud Garga said that CAF was considering the Togolese request. "But it is obviously a very difficult thing to organize at this stage.

"There are many meetings taking place and a lot of officials are in Cabinda to assess the situation. Whatever happens, we will not take any chances with the well-being of the players."

It seems highly unlikely that any other teams will, under the circumstances, volunteer to play their games in Cabinda.

Media reports on Saturday said that three players, Serge Akakpo, Serge Gakpe and Kodjovi Obilale were injured during the attack.

Defender Akakpo, who plays for Romanian club Vaslui, was hit twice by bullets while reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale of French club GSI Pontivy, was also wounded. Seven others, including the two team doctors, were also injured.

"If we are still not sure [about security] then we will be leaving," Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor told BBC Afrique.

"It's a football game, it's one of the biggest tournaments in Africa and a lot of people would love to be in our position but I don't think anybody would be prepared to give their life."

The Manchester City star said the team would discuss the situation before taking "a group decision that we think is good for our careers, good for our lives and good for our families because at the end of the day it is only football.

"If I am alive I can still play football tomorrow and in one year maybe even another Cup of Nations but I am not ready to pass away now."

The team has been drawn into the so-called Group of Death with Ghana, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, and is due to play its first match against Ghana on Monday. The tournament kicks off on Sunday when hosts Angola face Mali.

However, Hull City manager Phil Brown has called on his players participating at the tournament to return home in the wake of the terrorist attack.

"I am appalled. This throws a question mark against next summer's World Cup. You simply cannot put the safety of players, officials and fans at the slightest risk," Brown told The Sun newspaper on Saturday.

"That is totally unacceptable. I have two players - Daniel Cousin and Seyi Olofinjana - on duty and I want them back home here with us as quickly as possible."

Cousin plays for Gabon while Olofinjana is a midfielder for Nigeria.

FLEC has been involved in a long-running struggle for independence for the Cabinda region, which is separated from the rest of Angola by the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A 2006 peace agreement between the two sides sought to bring a formal end to the armed conflict there but sporadic attacks on government forces and expatriate workers have continued.

The region is rich in oil reserves.

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