Friday, January 8, 2010

"It's disgusting to take bullets for a football match": Togo attacked on its way to Africa Cup of Nations

That's Richmond Forson, midfielder for Togo's national team, commenting on being attacked on the way to the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Angola.   Here's the story from Sky Sports, Dossevi reveals Togo horror, and from Al Jazeera, Togo footballers attacked in AnglolaThe Guardian story is here. Reuters reports that the team bus driver (an Angolan) was killed. CNN story here.

Kodjovi Obilale and Serge Akakpo are reported seriously wounded. Adebayor was on the team bus, and is apparently unharmed. People from a range of quarters are crying that the African Nations tournament should be moved or abandoned. offers this background story on the incident - this is particularly alarming, for it suggests the tournament was held in spite of warnings about political instability and violence in the region. Needless to say, players for Togo's national team are desperately worried about their injured teammates and some want to pull out of the tournament. This Independent article on the hopes pinned to this tournament is worth a read.

As the Al Jazeera story points out, this frightening incident recalls the awful attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore last year and is bound to cause much worry about the upcoming World Cup. [1/9: For a critical perspective on this, see Pitch Invasion's World Reaction to Togo Tragedy.]

[1/9: Three people are reported killed in the attack, including assistant coach Abalo Ametele, press officer Stan Ocloo, and one of the bus drivers. There have been rumors that Obilale died, but reports on this are contradictory. Togo has withdrawn from the tournament, and other teams such as the Ivory Coast have expressed support, though I haven't seen confirmation of other withdrawals. See the Guardian's update here.]


  1. Hi Jennifer,

    I get more and more angry each day the Togo players seem to get knocked around MORE after getting shot at instead of receiving any kind of humane treatment by those that stand to profit from the tournament.

    I've been around sports long enough to take for granted that money and politics, despicably, come first, but there are plenty of ways that the Togo team could have been accommodated when they asked to be allowed back into the tournament. Rescheduling a match is not exactly unheard of even at top level contests.

    The CAF's explanation Togo hadn't taken the "official" steps to return seemed cruel, but to then to instruct the ref to start their first game and then disqualify them for not appearing is inhumane.

    The fact that little (nothing that's come to my eye anyway) is mentioned in the media when Group B simply appears with three teams listed, illustrates how much pressure there was on organizers to make the story disappear, to prevent a blight on the tournament and the region from appearing too dangerous for oil companies to return to.

    I always wish violent acts had not occurred, I wish the African Cup of Nations was not associated with violence and "lack of security." Beyond the pain caused to those involved and their families, it fuels already overactive prejudices. But it occurred, and there's no excuse for the way it was handled. Apart, maybe for a complete lack of support for the African Nations by FIFA.

    The CAF is a federation that faces more than its share of financial and regional political challenges, so I am even more critical of FIFA for not providing the kind of support they commit to higher-profile, more profitable, lighter skinnned competitions. We hear all about FIFA making sure their security standards are met and that players are protected -- why was the African federation an exception?


    As always, thanks for the info and the forum. (And excuse length of comment).


  2. Abso-fucking-lutely. I hadn't heard about how Togo was disqualified! That's appalling! Thank you so much for this comment Diane, always great to hear from you. JD

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