Huongbo: Why Togo had to quit Cup

TOGO’S Prime Minister Gilbert Huongbo has denied his country wants to re-enter the Africa Cup of Nations.

Togo pulled out of the tournament in Angola after a gun attack on their team bus left three people dead last Friday.

There have been numerous conflicting reports since concerning the team’s continued participation in the event.

Huongbo admitted there was confusion but said there was no chance of Togo fulfilling last night’s match against Ghana or any other games in the tournament.

Huongbo’s assertion came despite claims from Togo’s sports minister, Christophe Tchao, that a formal request had been made to return after a three-day period of mourning.

That request was turned down by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), who said that Togo would be disqualified if they failed to play last night’s group match against Ghana.

CAF also said in a statement that they had “decided to cancel all the matches of the Togolese team in the frame of this group’’, following Togo’s withdrawal.

According to Huongbo, the game against Ghana in Cabinda, the scene of Friday’s tragic attack, was never going to happen.

“The information that has been circulated on some websites saying the players are just back (in Togo) for three days’ mourning and will then go back playing is quite wrong,” he said.

‘‘We withdrew our team on the basis they have been the victim of a terrorist attack.”

Huongbo has also hit out at the way Togo has been treated by CAF.

Huongbo insists the decision to withdraw was not made in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, but after support from CAF proved non-forthcoming.

“Management did not give us enough assurance,” he said. “We would leave our team being exposed to similar risks. Therefore we decided to pull our team out of the competition against our will.

“We received no co-operation from the Confederation in terms of any kind of assessment. Our analysis is that they want it (the shooting) to be seen as a non-event and the show must go on as planned; there mustn’t be an official change and Togo is causing problems to the festival.”

The Togo team returned to their home country on Sunday after apparently agonising over whether to stay in Angola or not.

At first, they were reportedly keen to leave but then considered staying on after a team meeting.

In the end, the decision was made for them by their government and Huongbo says there was no option.

He said: “What if something happened again? It is not my pleasure we withdraw, we don’t want to play into the hands of the terrorists, but we have a responsibility to protect our people.”

Angolan police yesterday announced they had arrested two people in relation to the attack, which killed an assistant coach, press officer and bus driver.

Prosecutors in the troubled Cabinda province where the shooting took place said two members of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda forces, or Flec, were captured on Sunday.

Several Togo players were injured in the attack, some of them seriously.

Reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale, who was shot twice, is in a stable condition in intensive care in a South African hospital after undergoing emergency surgery.

“The medical team is satisfied with the progress of Mr Obilale,” said doctor Ken Boffard.

Boffard stated that one of the bullets that hit Obilale would not be removed from his body because of the risk of causing further injury.

During the tournament’s opening ceremony in Luanda on Sunday, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos condemned the attack but insisted that Cabinda would still play a part in staging the event.

“Despite the terrorist attack, Cabinda will remain a hosting city,” he said.

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