Mysterious case of the 'national' football side that (allegedly) wasn't

Could a recent Togo v Bahrain match have involved a bizarre fraud?

The mocking football chant "Who are you?" has been given new meaning after a "fake" Togo team played Bahrain in an international friendly. Bahrain's football authorities have launched an investigation into a match last week against what their coach believes was a bunch of amateurs masquerading as Togo.

Bahrain enjoyed an easy 3-0 win in the match, but the "total lack of quality" from the West African opposition caused the Gulf state's coach Josef Hickersberger to question whether the line-up were really professionals at all.

"They were not fit enough to play 90 minutes – the match was very boring," he told the Gulf Daily News. "Basically it was not good for us because we wanted to get information about the strength of our team, especially playing with many of our professionals."

The Togo team – which in the past has called on European-based professionals and Premier League stars like Emmanuel Adebayor – had "no idea of tactics", no organisation in defence and faded badly in the second half, said Hickersberger. They were more like a "company team" than professional sportsmen, he added.

News of the defeat was less of a shock to the Togolese football federation than the existence of the game itself.

Togo's Sport Minister Christophe Tchao told the Jeune Afrique magazine nobody in Togo had "ever been informed of such a game. We will conduct investigations to uncover all those involved in this case," he said.

Red-faced football officials in Bahrain were mystified by the controversy. They insisted the fixture had been set up with an established football agent who was "100 per cent all right" and who was now helping them with investigations.

"Everything seemed to be in order until after the game, when we began to hear that some people are wondering about these players and this Togo team. We ourselves were surprised when we heard this," said a spokesman for the Bahrain football association. The visiting team had gone through all the "usual procedures", officials said, including submitting passports.

The "fake team" scandal marks another low for Togolese football after a year in which the squad was attacked by gunmen on its way to the first match of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cabinda and subsequently dropped out of the tournament. Despite the tragic attack which cost the life of one of the management team and left one of the players wounded, Togo was suspended from international competition after refusing to play on in Angola. The attack and the row between the African federation and the Togo authorities prompted the international retirement of Adebayor, the team's leading player.

Bluffs and blunders

* In 2002, a nationwide manhunt was launched for a portly, dark-haired man who had appeared alongside the Manchester United starting 11 in their official photograph on the pitch in Munich before a Champions League match with Bayern Munich. He was eventually revealed as Karl Power from Droylsden, Manchester, a serial prankster who has since surprised security with impromptu appearances with the England cricket team at Headingley, on the podium at Silverstone, and a knock-up with a friend on Wimbledon's Centre Court.

* When Graeme Souness was the Southampton manager he received a call from footballing great George Weah, stating that a player called Ali Dia was his cousin, had played for Paris Saint-Germain and had 13 caps for Senegal. The Scot decided to sign him on a one-month contract, despite having never seen him play. Dia came on as a substitute against Leeds in a 1996 Premier League match and, in the words of one team mate "ran around like Bambi on ice" before being substituted himself. The next day he disappeared from the club altogether. He now regularly tops lists of the worst footballers of all time. The purported call from George Weah, incidentally, was made by a student colleague of Dia's.

* Nigeria striker Obafemi Martins became embroiled in a bizarre row over his age in 2005 when the Nigerian Football Federation website claimed he was born in May 1978, almost six years earlier than the date on his passport. The Nigerian FA confirmed that it had been a mistake and apologised for the confusion, but Martins threatened to quit playing for the national team after the blunder had initially threatened his transfer to Newcastle United.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas