Wenger says return calls are 'selfish'

Arsenal manager hits out at Brown and Gartside for wanting African players back.
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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger has criticised the Premier League clubs who have called for their African players to return from the African Nations Cup in the aftermath of the attack on the Togo squad and said that he is happy for Alex Song and Emmanuel Eboué to stay in Angola.

The Arsenal manager was talking in the light of public calls from the Hull City manager Phil Brown and Bolton Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside, both of whom have players from their clubs in Angola where the Togo team bus was the target of a terrorist attack on Friday that left three dead.

The decision would rest with Fifa and they have shown no sign of cancelling the tournament or allowing players to return home. That would be a major blow to African football and in private the competing nations are coming under pressure from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to stay in it.

Wenger said that the decision should not be made under pressure from European clubs. He said: "It wouldn't be fair [to bring players back]. What is behind things like that? Is it a selfish motivation or is it a real issue over security? We, here, are not in the best position to judge the security.

"If you organise the European Championships and you have an incident like that – it can happen, and has happened already – you do not want all your players suddenly to move home.

"Sometimes you hear there's unrest in the suburbs of London, you still live well in London. When I speak to my friends in France, they ask me: 'Is a revolution happening in London?' It's the same in Paris. You immediately think it's a revolution everywhere. It's not always the case. You have to judge the place, whether the competition can go on or not, and I don't know [the details]. I don't like this culture of fear, either. I hate that."

The Togo players were ordered back from Angola by their prime minister Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo and were due to fly into Lome, the Togo capital, yesterday. Manchester City are understood to have ordered a plan to fly Emmanuel Adebayor back to Britain although there is confusion over his eligibility to play in City's forthcoming matches.

After they play Blackburn Rovers tonight, Roberto Mancini's team face Everton on Saturday, a game in which Adebayor could arguably play. However, given that Togo left Angola without Fifa's agreement there is a question mark over whether he will be breaking the rules on international clearance by playing in the match.

Fifa published a letter yesterday from its president Sepp Blatter to Isaa Hayatou, the CAF president, in which he sent his condolences for Friday's attack. With so much money and credibility riding on the World Cup in South Africa this summer it was unsurprising that the Fifa president's anxieties were focussed on that tournament. Blatter said: "I have faith in Africa, and it is with this faith that together we will organise world football's showcase event in 2010." However, there are major questions over how CAF, a major political stronghold for Blatter, came to award Angola the tournament in September 2006.