UPDATE: Should the African Nations Cup be called off?
UPDATE: The death toll has risen to three. The bus driver died on Friday and an assistant coach and press officer died on Saturday. Togo appear to have pulled out.
African Nations Cup organisers are adamant that the tournament will go ahead in Angola despite Friday’s ambush of the Togo team bus.
The bus had just entered the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, where separatists have waged a three-decade long war, when it came under heavy gunfire. Players said that the attack lasted for around 20 to 30 minutes.
Local organisers (COCAN) criticised the Togolese for the incident.
“The rules are clear: no team should travel by bus. I don’t know what led them to do this. The incident would not have happened in the city,” said Virgilio Santos, an official with COCAN.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) put out a verbose statement which seemed to promise lots of meetings and assessments.
“Immediately after the news, CAF held an emergency meeting on that issue,” said CAF.
“According to information sent to CAF again late in the afternoon, another meeting was held. The Angolan Football Association president who is also the director general of the Local Organising Committee, Mr. Justino Fernandes, informed the CAF Executive Committee that the incident happened 10 kilometers within the Angolan territory.
“The Angolan authority deployed immediately a team down there to assess the exact situation. According to the information provided by the director general, all injured people were taken to a hospital in Cabinda.
“On Saturday morning, 9 January 2010, an important delegation be headed by the Angolan Minister on Internal Affairs, Ministers of Youth and Sports, members from the Prime Ministers office as well as a powerful delegation from CAF will be in Cabinda. The Angolan Prime Minister will meet on Saturday CAF President, Mr Issa Hayatou, to take decisions to guarantee the smooth running of the competition.”
A similar incident happened last year when the Sri Lankan cricket team was ambushed by gunmen in Lahore, Pakistan. Six policemen were killed and eight people –six cricketers and two Sri Lankan officials — were injured.
International sporting events in Pakistan were immediately cancelled. The International Cricket Council (ICC) moved last year’s Champions Trophy out of Pakistan and said it would do the same for matches at the 2011 World Cup.
Should the football authorities follow that example?
PHOTO: Manchester City and Togo soccer player Emmanuel Adebayor leaves his hotel in Manchester, northern England, September 15, 2009. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis