Togo to fight Afcon ban

Togo plans to fight its suspension from the next two editions of the African Cup of Nations after its national football team withdrew from last month’s tournament following a deadly attack on its bus.

Government spokesperson Pascal Bodjona described the Confederation of African Football (CAF) ruling as “insulting”, adding that “Togo will use all available legal means to fight the decision.”

He did not specify what steps Togolese officials would take. Togo pulled out of the African Cup after its team bus was attacked by gunmen in Angola and an assistant coach and spokesperson were killed on January 8, two days before the start of the tournament.

A separatist group has 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 ban on Saturday, leading Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor to call for CAF president Issa Hayatou to quit.

“Mr. Hayatou has done much for Africa but now he must clear off. This decision is monstrous,” Adebayor said. “They’re laughing in
everybody’s face. [Togo President Faure Gnassingbe] sent us to the [African Cup of Nations] to defend the colors 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.”

However, Bodjona said 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.” — Sapa-AP

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