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Togo to play Africa Cup of Nations
Football team decide to participate in tournament in spite of gun attack in Angola.
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2010 11:48 GMT
Emmanuel Adebayor, Togo's captain, said the team will meet on Saturday to decide their move [Reuters]

Togo's national football squad have decided to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, a day after their bus came under fire.

The driver of the bus was killed and nine other people were wounded, including two players, in the attack, claimed by separatist fighters in Cabinda province. 

Al Jazeera's sports correspondent Mourad Laraba said the team confirmed their participation following a meeting with Angola officials.

"Yesterday African football federations had a meeting with the officials in Angola in order to ask them for guarantees to secure national team security in Cabinda, and we've just heard that the Togo national team will play in Cabinda," he said.

"The show will go on."

Authorities in Angola moved quickly to ensure they were doing everything possible to safeguard the tournament, which they insist will go ahead.

"We are going to further reinforce all the mechanisms and continue to guarantee security and create all the conditions which guarantee the success, and organisation and safety of poeple as planned," Goncalves Muandumba, Angola's minister for youth and sport, said.

Assurances sought

After seeing the aftermath of the attack, members of the Mozambique national team flying into Luanda were seeking assurances of protection.

"Of course I think that it is very worrying," Otshudi Lam, a player, said.

"Today we are boarding for Angola, am I afraid? Yes, I'm afraid."

Amade Chababe, the assistant coach of the Mozambique team, said: "We have goosebumps.

in depth

  Profile: Cabinda separatists

"Because with these attacks we cannot say that it only happens to Togo. Who knows what is going to happen to us?"

Emmanuel Adebayor, the Togo team captain, said that the team would only stay if their security could be guaranteed.

"I think a lot of players want to leave," he told BBC radio in Britain.

"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 will be ready to give their life."

Organisers have said that the tournament, which is due to kick off on Sunday, will go ahead, but African football officials met the Angolan government beforehand to seek assurances that players would be protected.

Not convinced

Al Jazeera's Andy Richardson, reporting from Luanda, said that he expected that players from most nations would be considering their participation despite the organisers' assurances.

"I think a lot of players involved here, a lot of clubs that they play for, and obviously their families back home, are not as convinced as officials," he said.

"There are some multimillion-dollar players up there in Cabinda and a lot of them have clubs back in Europe who are obviously very concerned about them being exposed into an area where it seems security cannot be guaranteed."

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Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Ghana were also to be based in Cabinda, which is separated from the rest of Angola by a slice of Democratic Republic of Congo, for the tournament.

The Togo team had been training in DR Congo and were travelling to Angola by bus ahead of their match against Ghana on Monday.

However, local official questioned why the team were travelling by bus rather than air.

"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," Virgilio Santos, an organising official, was quoted by A Bola newspaper as saying.

The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Flec), which has been fighting for independence for three decades, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was aimed at the team's military escorts.

"This operation is only the start of a series of targeted  actions that will continue in all the territory of Cabinda," it said  in a statement on Portugal's Lusa news agency.

Spate of attacks

Flec signed a peace deal with Angola's government in 2006, but in recent months has claimed a spate of attacks on the military and foreign oil and construction workers in the province.

Keir Radnedge, from World Soccer magazine, believed that the decision by the Togo team was the right one. 

"Togo staying on really cements the general feeling that if you stop a sports tournament because of a terrorist attack, then you are giving in to the terrorists.

"I applaud them [the Togo squad] for their spirit and their loyalty to the game.

"Obviously there are some wider issues that are going to stem from the fact that an attack of this size and scope was possible in the first place".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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