The gun attack on Togo’s team bus in Angola before the start of the African Nations Cup will have no impact on the World Cup in South Africa this year, chief World Cup organiser Danny Jordaan said on Saturday.
Two members of Togo’s national soccer delegation died on Saturday following an ambush on Friday, a team member told French radio.
The attack, in which the driver was killed and seven injured, took place in Cabinda, a province where guerrillas have fought a secession campaign for decades.
Togolese officials named the dead men as media officer Stanislas Ocloo and assistant coach Amalete Abalo, and said reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale had been evacuated to Johannesburg for medical treatment.
“It has no impact on our World Cup,” Jordaan told Reuters from Luanda where he is to act as match commissioner for Sunday’s Nations Cup opener between Angola and Mali.
“The world understands that sovereign countries are responsible for their own safety and security and to say what happened in Angola impacts on the World Cup in South Africa is the same as suggesting that when a bomb goes off in Spain, it threatens London’s ability to host the next Olympics.
“It is nonsensical for South Africa to be tainted with what happens in Angola, which is not even one of our neighbouring countries.”
Jordaan said the bus attack was a blow for Nations Cup hosts Angola.
“I feel very sorry for the Angolans because they have spent billions on fixing up their cities and building infrastructure for this tournament. This was going to be the event that would mark their transition from decades of war to a new social and economic order. In that context, it’s a blow.”
Former African Footballer of the Year and president of Zambia’s football association Kalusha Bwalya said the attack was a huge setback for African football.
“It’s a very negative blow for Africa and our football,” he said.
“It’s really disturbing that something like this has happened in the months leading up to the World Cup.”
Former Togo coach Otto Pfister said there was no need for panic.
“The shocking attack in Angola will be projected on to the World Cup in South Africa,” said German Pfister, who has taken charge of eight different African national teams.
“It is a big blow for Africa because it will give the critics more fuel. But you cannot compare Angola with South Africa and there is no need for panic.”
Violence erupted in North Africa two months ago when Egypt and Algeria met in two crucial World Cup qualifiers. Algeria had their team bus stoned by Egyptian fans in Cairo while businesses with Egyptian connections were burnt and looted in retaliation in Algiers.
Bus travel banned
Togolese soccer administrators met the players, and Togo’s presidency said the federation would decide whether to quit the three-week tournament after returning to the capital Lome.
But Togo’s captain and star striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who escaped the attack unharmed, was already flying home, his English club Manchester City said.
Virgilio Santos, an official with the African Nations Cup local organising committee COCAN, said teams had been told explicitly not to travel to the tournament by road.
“We asked that all delegations inform us when they would arrive and provide the passport number of their players,” he told the sports weekly A Bola.
“Togo was the only team not to respond and did not inform COCAN it was coming by bus … The rules are clear: No team should travel by bus. I don’t know what led them to do this.”
Adebayor said the attack would hurt Africa as a whole.
“We keep repeating [that] — Africa, we have to change our image if we want to be respected — and unfortunately that is not happening,” he told the BBC World Service.
Organisers said on Friday the tournament, which will feature some of the world’s most valuable players, would start as planned on Sunday.
But Togo appeared unlikely to take part.
“No one [in the team] wants to play,” midfielder Moustapha Salifou was quoted as saying by his English club, Aston Villa.
“We just want to go home … We can’t play in these circumstances and we want to leave for home today.”
The team bus, travelling from its training ground in the Congo Republic, had just entered Cabinda, geographically cut off from the rest of Angola, when it came under fire.
“I know I am really lucky,” Salifou said. “A defender who was sat in front of me took two shots in the back … Our security people saved us … They were in two separate cars, about 10 of them in total, and they returned fire. The shooting lasted for half an hour and I could hear the bullets whistling past me. It was like a movie.” – Reuters