Al Jazeera’s Paul Rhys says African football leaders lack guts to stand up for players.
|Adebayor has criticised the decision to ban Togo as ‘monstrous’ [Reuters]|
Togo will fight their suspension from the next two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments after their national football team withdrew from last month’s tournament in Angola following an attack on their team bus.
Pascal Bodjona, a Togo government spokesman, reacted angrily to the ruling by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), describing it as ‘insulting’.
He added that “Togo will use all available legal means to fight the decision.”
He did not specify what steps Togolese officials would take.
Togo withdrew from Africa’s premier football competition after the team bus was attacked by gunmen in the northern enclave of Cabinda.
An assistant coach and a media officer with the Togo team died in the ambush as the team travelled from Pointe Noire, Congo to the Angolan capital by bus for their opening match on January 8, two days before the start of the tournament.
A separatist group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Togo team officials had at the time asked CAF to allow the players to return home for three days of mourning before entering the tournament at a later date. The request was denied.
CAF announced the two-tournament ban on Saturday as well as a $50,000 fine because their government had interfered in football matters.
A furious Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor called on CAF president Issa Hayatou to resign following the “monstrous” decision to ban Togo.
“Mr Hayatou did serve Africa but today, he must clear off. This decision is monstrous,” Adebayor told French sports daily L’Equipe.
“He (Hayatou) is irresponsible. I have the feeling we are not respected.”
“They’re laughing in everybody’s face. (Togo President Faure Gnassingbe) sent us to the (African Cup) to defend the colours of our nation.
“He judged that the threat to our team had not been removed and called us back to the country. We are only ambassadors. We had to go back.”
|FROM THE BLOGS|
“Two well respected personalities in African football died, our keeper took three bullets. We did not just wake up in the morning and decide to leave the competition,” Adebayor said.
“If (Cameroon keeper Idriss Carlos) Kameni was the one having been shot or if it was the Ivory Coast team bus that had been attacked, the Nations Cup would have been cancelled.”
The Manchester City striker said the attack, which lasted at least 20 minutes, was still fresh in his memory.
“It is very difficult (to think of football). Since the attack, I have been having nightmare every night,” he said.
However, Togo spokesman Bodjona said on Sunday that it was the players who had asked to return to Togo.
“It was a case of an armed attack and our players requested to be sent home,” he said.
“The Togo government therefore obliged.”
Hans Mastro, a sports journalist on Togo national radio and TV, said the ban was an inexplicable further assault on the team.
“The CAF decision is like opening fire on an ambulance,” Mastro said.
“First they hang a sword on Togo like an albatross, now they decapitate or behead our football with a four-year ban.”
Egypt beat Ghana 1-0 in the African Cup final on Sunday.