African business, politics and lifestyle
Nightmare start for Africa’s year of soccer
Africa’s year of soccer scarcely could have got off to a worse
Days before the start of the African Nations Cup — a
warm-up for the continent’s first World Cup in South Africa this
June — the gun attack on Togo’s national team by separatists in
Angola for many will confirm Africa’s reputation for chaos.
The ambush of the team bus as it wound its way through the
restive enclave of Cabinda left the driver dead, nine wounded
and a huge question mark over whether the tournament can proceed
– despite host Angola’s pledges to heighten security.
Sceptics of Africa’s ability to pull off major events of
this kind will be saying “I told you so”.
Was it really a good idea to schedule six group matches and
a quarter-final in a region where separatist factions have waged
a three-decade-long war?
Why did the Togolese team choose to make its way through the
area from its training ground in neighbouring Republic of Congo
by coach, despite an apparent ban on bus travel?
Tournament organisers have vowed that the competition would
continue as planned, but with the rebel group behind the attack
promising it was “just the start” of a campaign of violence it
may not be the end of the story.
Togo’s squad is due to decide on Saturday whether to carry
on or head back home, and other teams set to play in Cabinda –
including well-fancied Ivory Coast and Ghana — will have been
spooked by the incident.
Meanwhile Europe’s top soccer clubs are understandably
concerned about the safety of multi-million-euro players.
“If the players’ safety cannot be ensured, then the players
should be sent home,” Portsmouth‘s director of communications
Gary Double told Reuters.
Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor, who joined Manchester City
for a reported 25 million pounds ($40 million) last year, summed
up what many Africans will be rueing this weekend.
“We keep repeating : Africa, we have to change our
image if we want to be respected and unfortunately that is not
happening,” the shaken ex-Arsenal striker told the BBC.
Although there is no direct link with the Cabinda attack, it
will surely add to nervousness about the security of the World
Cup in South Africa, a country with 50 murders a day and high
rates of rape and violent crime.
What can Africa do to ensure its year of soccer does not
turn into an “annus horribilis“?