***Note: [Togo Team finally left on Sunday 10 January on the orders of their government]
The 27th Africa Cup of Nations starts this Sunday with the opening match between hosts Angola and Mali in a context clouded by last Friday’s gun-attack on the coach of the Togolese national football team in the Enclave of Cabinda.
The Togolese authorities decided to recall their players from the tournament (ordering a return to Togo) following the death of two members of their delegation in the attack claimed by the military wing of the FLEC separatist movement.
However, an Agence France Presse (AFP) report late into Saturday night suggested that some of the players now want to play the competition in honour of the slain Abalo Amelet e (assistant coach) and Stanislas Ocloo (team press officer), as well as their injured colleagues particularly goalkeeper Obilale who is currently in South Africa for intensive care.
*”In memory of those we have lost, the national team has decided to participate in the CAN,” Thomas Dossevi said. “We are all sad as this is no longer a celebration [of football] but we want to show our colors, our values and that we are men,” the striker who was among the first to initially ask for a return to Togo in the immediate aftermath of the incident, said.
The decision also seems to be a reaction against a perceived injustice and lack of understanding from African football’s governing body CAF.
“This is a decision that was taken almost unanimously by the group that met at night and decided after being reassured by the Angolan authorities,” Dossevi said. ”
“We are disappointed that the CAF could not re-arrange the schedule a time of our first game, even if it was only to allow us bury our corpses”.
“We’re a little bitter, we are disappointed by the conduct of CAF,” said Dossevi. “It sees its interests first and not those of the country…It has not supported us enough.”
If the Togolese authorities confirm the decision as they did on Saturday when the players earlier expressed the wish to pull out, it would be strong signal and a face saver to the Angolan organisers who have banked on this tournament to show case the country’s re-emergence from 30 years of war.
It will not be the first time that a country pulls out of the AFCON and then makes a U-turn on its decision.
In 1990, Egypt pulled-out its Pharoahs from the continental jamboree amidst a row with the host nation Algeria, before changing its mind days later and re-sending the squad to the tournament.
Meanwhile, Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions who enter the competition on Wednesday continued preparations with a 3 -1 victory over Kenya on Saturday.
The Harambee stars opened scores at the 8th minute from a free-Kick. The Lions equalised through Achille Webo at the 36th minute of play and added a second 11 minutes into the second half through Achille Emana. Idrissou Mohamadou scored the third goal barely two minutes after (at the 58th) to lend credit to his selection by Paul Le Guen.
Many kenyan fans were disappointed not to see Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto’o and Arsenal’s Alexandre Song. Both players who had suffered from strained muscles during the past week’s intense training drills were rested by Cameroon’s French-born coach.
The team started in its usual 4-3-3 with the following players: Idriss Kameni (GK); Geremi Njitap, Nkoulou Nicolas, Rigobert Song, Henri Bedimo (Defenders); Jean Makoun, Landry N’guemo, Stephane Mbia (Midfielders); Somen Tchoyi, Webo Achille, Emana Achille (Attackers). There were a number of changes at half time.
Geremi was captain for the day.
*Translation into English by Gef’s Football Club