Confusion over Togo participation
Monday 11 January 2010
The Confederation of African Football have all but disqualified Togo from the African Nations Cup by confirming the team will not be allowed to re-enter the competition if they do not take part in tonight's scheduled game against Ghana.
Confusion has reigned since Togo pulled out of the tournament in Angola and returned home after a gun attack on their team bus left three people dead last Friday.
The country's sports minister Christophe Tchao was quoted this morning saying a formal request had been made to return after a three-day period of mourning but prime minister Gilbert Houngbo has since denied they want to re-enter the tournament.
The event's organisers have been largely silent on the matter but a CAF official told reporters this afternoon that if Togo are not on the pitch come kick-off tonight, they will be out of the competition.
"Togo have not taken official steps to come back and play the African Nations Cup," he said. "We have just heard this rumour in the press.
"The referee has received the order to blow the starting whistle and if the Togolese players are not there, they will have lost the match and will be disqualified."
With the match scheduled to kick-off at 2030 GMT and the team currently back in Togo, their elimination from the tournament is now more or less official.
Despite conflicting reports, it had seemed unlikely that the team would return to the country where Friday's tragedy occurred - something which was confirmed by the Togolese prime minister today.
Houngbo told Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Radio 5 Live: "I do believe there is confusion. The information you have got, I'm afraid, might not be the most accurate.
"We have simply withdrawn our team, it is not a matter of withdrawing for the mourning period.
"The information that has been circulated on some websites saying the players are just back for three days' mourning and will then go back playing is quite wrong.
"We withdrew our team on the basis they have been the victim of a terrorist attack."
Houngbo has also hit out at the way Togo have been treated by CAF, insisting the decision to withdraw was not made in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, but after support from the tournament organisers proved non-forthcoming.
He added: "Management did not give us enough assurance. 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 would have hoped that one could have serene discussion with the host country, with the confederation, to assess what has happened, assess what one has to do.
"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 yesterday 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 Houngbo insisted there was no option.
He said: "What if something happened again? What is our responsibility? It is a matter of taking seriously the safety of our people.
"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 today announced they had arrested two people in relation to the attack.
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 yesterday.
FLEC released a statement on Saturday strongly denying any responsibility for the attack which has been claimed by an splinter group of their organisation - Military Position of FLEC (FLEC-MP).
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