UPDATE: Should the African Nations Cup be called off?

January 9, 2010

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. 

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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

12 comments

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Plain and simple: yes it should.

Posted by Magicwand | Report as abusive

Absolutely not. First, the Togo team drove a bus through a known hotspot when the teams were all instructed to fly. In other words, the other teams should not be subject to such attacks if they stay off the roads.

Secondly, you do not give in to terrorists. The US gave in after 9/11 and look at the hysterical state of useless hyper-security we have now. It’s a joke, and we’re not the ones laughing. If the ACN is called off, that sends the message to terrorists that they can attack the World Cup, Olympics, and so on. It should not be tolerated, and quitting the tournament would be giving in to it.

Third, careful consideration should be given to host countries. Angola, and especially the city of Cabinda, should not have been a venue in light of the troubles they have with rebels/militia.

Calling off the tournament would do more harm than good in the long run.

Posted by SoccerTorte | Report as abusive

@SoccerTorte: Your rhetoric is theoretically plausible but reality looks very different to all the teams taking part. Do you think Togo are the only team who don’t feel like playing anymore? Who’s to say FLEC won’t launch another attack when the tournament kicks off? Of course, the decision to name Angola hosts was terribly ill-judged.
And are you for real, saying more or less that Togo have partly themselves to blame for what happened, having driven to Cabinda instead of flying there!? They can’t fly all the say to their hotel rooms, can they? And anyway, what if these gunmen have stinger missiles able to being down airplanes?

Posted by Magicwand | Report as abusive

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Posted by zm187 | Report as abusive

@MagicWand –
You are looking at this issue with a narrow view. Togo, the team affected has pulled out of the tournament. None of the other teams have pulled and this itself is a very big sign here.
Are you trying to say here that the respective participating football federations have no concern for their players at all?

Posted by indiangooner | Report as abusive

@Indiangooner
On the contrary, I am the one looking at the bigger picture. A country embroiled in such a conflict should not have been allowed to stage the tournament. Its government described the attack as an “isolated incident” by a terrorist group which “no longer exists,” but how did this non-existent guerillas kill three people and did they not issue a statement they would strike again? The environment is clearly unsafe and calling off the tournament would have been the only sensible decision. And I don’t care what Arsene Wenger and the lot say – they are not down there, are they? Hopefully, there will be no more casualties.

Posted by Magicwand | Report as abusive

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@MagicWand –
Well u have to listen to what Drogba has to say in that case. He is down there and is definitely is in a position to assess the situation. He did say there was Fear in the mind of the players. But he also said that the continuing with the Cup was the right thing to do.

You have to look it in the angle of setting a precedent.
No matter how big or small the terrorist group is(or was)their intention was defintely to have the Cup Cancelled. Encouraging any such incident would set a horrible precedent for the future Major tournaments.

Essien said: “I am going to Angola to join my colleagues to show the unity of Africa. We cannot let negative people win.”

Besides, the guys out there have taken thier decision and the African Cup is continuing in full flow.

Dr

Posted by indiangooner | Report as abusive

But I think considering the events, Togo should have been allowed back into the Cup. It is wrong to expect that a team would stay on especially after having such a deadly attack on them.
That they had requested to come back shows tremendous courage and this should have been lauded while welcoming them back.

Posted by indiangooner | Report as abusive

@Indiangooner

I agree with your latter post – Togo’s first reaction was one caused by the shock they had gone through but the second one was true to a footballer’s nature. But the reason they are not there is their government, who ordered them back home when they should have let them stay. You can’t rearrange the fixtures which come thick and fast, no matter what the circumstances are. But going back to the crux of the debate, proceeding with the tournament will only make sense if there are no more attacks until the end of it, and who can guarantee that? Angola, especially Cabinda, should never have been allowed to stage it in the first place, knowing that the country is plagued by a civil strife.

Posted by Magicwand | Report as abusive

should not be called off, as I enjoyed watch african cup of nations 2010 online now .. and it’s knockout stage… getting tense

Posted by babeintown | Report as abusive

For more in-depth news about Africa, you may want to visit Newstime Africa http://www.newstimeafrica.com – We cover the whole of Africa. You will get our views on this topic and much more.

Posted by Newstime | Report as abusive

Countries with unstable governments are one of the big challenges of the next century. Sports play a role in bringing countries together and developing a means to work together despite differences. Sports should be one area that is agnostic to violence, but as with all things, it will take time to get there, For a 2010 FIFA World Cup security briefing, visit http://www.kivuconsulting.com/Kivu_Inter national.html.

Posted by MBComment | Report as abusive