Emmanuel Adebayor says Togo team will return home

Venue and dates: Angola, 10-31 January Coverage: Final and semi-finals live on BBC TV, BBC World Service and commentaries on BBC Sport website. Live commentary on opening match on BBC World Service and BBC Sport website

Players in shock after the attack (video grab)
Togolese officials had said the team would return because it was in shock

Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor has told French radio his team will return home from the Africa Cup of Nations following advice from their government.

Although the team initially wanted to leave the tournament after a gun attack on the team killed three people, they then said they would stay on in Angola.

But Togo Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo insisted the team leave the country for security reasons.

Tournament organisers have said the event will still go ahead as planned.

The attack on Togo’s convoy in the northern enclave of Cabinda killed an assistant coach, press officer and bus driver, and injured several other players.

Adebayor, who plays in the Premier League with Manchester City, had previously said the team thought that life should go on and they did not want to be seen as ruining the Nations Cup which begins on Sunday.

However, following further consultation with government officials, he accepted the authorities knew best.

He said: “This Friday at 1430, we were all dead on that bus. We sent our last messages to our families. We called our family to say our last words. I told myself: ‘If you’re still there on the ground in Angola, why not (play)?’

“The authorities decided we should return (home), so we will return.”

Adebayor also revealed he spoke to members of the Ivory Coast and Ghana camps, two of the three other teams in their group – Burkina Faso being the fourth.

“They expressed their support by saying they were ready to leave the competition if we did,” he said.

“(But) at the end of the day, we realised that they were ready to continue. It is still a continent where a World Cup will take place in South Africa.

“If we speak of the dead, the competition should have been cancelled. But the Confederation of African Football (Caf) has decided otherwise.

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“We’re going back and we wish good luck to those who will remain, especially to Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

“What I have told their leaders is that they may be attacked at any time in Cabinda. I hope they will be cautious.”

Adebayor’s team-mate Thomas Dossevi said part of the players motivation for wanting to compete was to honour those killed and French paper L’Equipe quoted another player Alaixys Romao as saying the team would not “leave like cowards”.

But it seems that Houngbo’s advice has led to a change of heart.

Earlier, Houngbo said while he understood the feelings of the players and believed the competition should go ahead, the government stood by its decision to call the team back to Togo and had sent a plane to collect them.

“We took into account their last-minute change of mind,” Houngbo told the BBC.

“Up to midnight last night, they were all unanimous that they wanted to come back.

“After the delegation that we sent to visit them left, then they had another meeting and all of a sudden they changed their mind and we do respect that.

“But we explained to them through their captain, Adebayor, that in memory of those who had lost their lives, we also need to take into account what the families also think is the best way to pay tribute to them.

“That does not overtake the importance of security, and security is non-negotiable.”

Houngbo also criticised the Confederation of African Football (Caf), saying it had not given Togo any information to assess the security situation after the attack.

“So far we did not even have a single call, even a call of sympathy, from Caf,” Houngbo added.

“We do not even have information that will allow us to have an assessment from a security standpoint, taking into account what has happened.

“Anybody who is involved in security matters will tell you that it would be irresponsible for us just to pretend that nothing has happened, and to just let the ‘music’, the ‘show’, go on.

“That’s why we believe it’s important for us to look at it more from the security for our people, than just from the ‘show’ perspective.”

The bi-annual tournament is set to begin on Sunday with the hosts Angola playing Mali in Luanda at 1900 GMT.

Caf has confirmed that one minute’s silence will be held prior to the first round of group matches.

Togo were due to play Ghana, who have confirmed they will remain in the tournament despite concerns over security, in Cabinda in their first match on Monday.

The Togolese government has demanded Angola explain why it was not warned of the dangers of travel in Cabinda, where the bus was ambushed.

Angolan officials had earlier expressed astonishment that the team had travelled there by road from their base in the Republic of Congo.

On Saturday, government spokesman Pascal Bodjona said Togo’s players were returning home because they were in a state of shock.

“We cannot in such a dramatic circumstance continue in the Africa Cup of Nations,” he told reporters.

He reiterated that message on Sunday, saying: “The government is maintaining its decision to call the team back home.”

Togo’s stance has changed several times amid intense negotiations, with Dossevi quoted as saying that the players wanted “to show our national colours, our values and that we are men”.

CABINDA
Map
Oil-rich province cut off from the rest of Angola by DR Congo
Flec rebels fought for region’s independence
Rebels laid down arms in 2006 but some unrest continues
Angola had dismissed concerns about staging games there

Caf had already said it understood Togo’s initial decision to withdraw, but that the six other matches scheduled to be played in Cabinda would go ahead.

In Friday’s attack, several gunmen opened fire on the team bus shortly after it had crossed from the Republic of Congo into the enclave of Cabinda.

Togolese officials said the driver had died at the scene, while media officer Stanislas Ocloo and assistant coach Amalete Abalo died later in hospital.

The separatist rebel Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Flec), which has fought for independence for several decades but entered into a ceasefire in 2006, later claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Angolan government, which had hoped the tournament would show how well it had recovered from the fighting, called the incident an “act of terrorism”.

CAF president Issa Hayatou said he had received a guarantee that security would be increased for all teams and at all venues.

Angola’s prime minister Antonio Paulo Kassoma confirmed this, saying: “We are going to give a higher profile to the protection and security of all the delegations. We are going to reinforce these measures.”

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