Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Sometimes football is a matter of life AND death…

Posted in African Football by peterbein on January 9, 2010
Emmanuel Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor was on the Togo team bus that was attacked.

It is with great sadness that I should have to post a blog today that focuses on off the field tragedy rather than looking forward to on the field matters building up to the African Cup of Nations that begins in Angola tomorrow. However it has been announced that the Togolese national team has decided to withdraw from the tournament after their team bus came under attack from people, whose motives are unknown, brandishing machine guns with which they killed the bus driver and injured two of the squad, Serge Akakpo and Kodjovi Obilale.

Unfortunately it is increasingly the case that people who think that sports stars are immune from the sort of danger that ordinary citizens face in everyday life are incorrect. Other sports have suffered tragedy, most recently cricket has had to face up to a similar horror when the Sri Lanka team bus was attacked when about to play in a Test Match against Pakistan in Lahore in March 2009. Several cricket players, including captain Mahela Jayawardene, were injured whilst six policemen and a civilian were killed. In both these tragic cases it happened despite the presence of heavy security and it seems that people who intend to injure, harm or kill others will do so no matter what it takes.

Despite the decision taken by Togo to withdraw from the tournament it has been announced this afternoon by the African Football Confederation (CAF) that the competition will go ahead as planned from tomorrow. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has asked the head of the CAF, Issa Hayatou, for a full report into the incident, no doubt hoping to learn lessons with the FIFA World Cup due to take place in South Africa later this year. Issues surrounding crime and safety have already been brought up in relation to the World Cup as thousands of fans from over thirty countries will travel this summer to a country whose troubles with law and order have been well documented in the last few years and this attack will certainly worry the powers that be as they seek to re-assure fans, officals and players that their safety is paramount.

There will be many people who will say that the only way to ensure that the terrorists don’t win is to go ahead with everything as normal. Of course there is some sympathy for that argument but one must consider that should anything equally, if not more, tragic should occur during this tournament then serious questions will need to be asked and fully accounted for. One can fully understand why the Togo national team has no desire to participate in this tournament despite the prestige that such a competition can give to their nation. Team captain Emmanuel Adebayor convened a meeting with his players after the incident and made a statement later on stating that “most of the players want to go back to their family. No-one can sleep after what they have seen today. They have seen one of their team-mates have a bullet in his body, who is crying, who is losing consciousness and everything….I don’t think they [the players] will be ready to give their life.”

That final point is the most poignant. To many people football, to use that oft-quoted remark from Bill Shankly, is a matter of life or death. Sadly it became, yesterday, a matter of life AND death and it is with this is mind that everybody in the world of football and elsewhere should send their sympathies and condolence to the Togo national team and pray that nothing else happens to compound this truth even further during the next few weeks in Angola.Thilan Samaraweera and
Tharanga Paranavitana were hospitalisedThilan Samaraweera and
Tharanga Paranavitana were hospitalised

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