By RON FANFAIR
The African soccer confederation says Togo has been disqualified from the African Cup of Nations.
The West African country withdrew after an assistant coach and the press officer died in an ambush shooting last week after the team bus crossed from the Republic of Congo into Angola’s oil rich territory of Cabinda. Several players were injured in the attack, including reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale, who was shot twice in the back. He’s in intensive care in a South African hospital.
Togo was to have played its opening game against Ghana last Monday in Group B.
Before the team returned home Sunday, Togo’s government had asked organizers to postpone the competition to give players a chance to mourn.
Togo’s Prime Minister Gilbert Huongbo expressed disappointment at the way Togo has been treated by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the governing body for soccer in Africa.
Huongbo insists the decision to withdraw was not made in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, but after the CAF’s failure to provide support.
“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 will have hoped that one can have serene discussion with the host country, with the Confederation, to assess what has happened, assess what one has to do.
“We received no cooperation 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 tournament kicked off with Mali pulling off a stunning come-from-behind win over host country Angola. The visitors scored four goals in the final 11 minutes to earn a 4-4 draw.
“This draw tasted like a defeat to me,” said Angola’s coach Manuel Jose. “This is one of the bitterest pills I have ever had to swallow in all matches of my long career. We were supposed to win this game, but we gave up at the end.”
Mali’s coach Stephen Kehsi admitted that his team did not show up in the first half of the game.
“I just couldn’t imagine we could fight back like that,” he said. “We were bad in the first half and mentally, we were not really at the races. It’s good for us mentally, but we have to be careful to not make too many mistakes. There is a lot to correct before the next match.
Meanwhile, the South Africa Football Association has unveiled Leslie Sedibe as its new chief executive.
The 36-year-old lawyer succeeds Raymond Hack who was relieved of his duties.
“Sedibe is a young and visionary leader and we are confident that he will take the organization to new and greater heights,” said SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani.
The new chief executive has promised to help build a post-World Cup legacy for South African soccer.
“We had a vision that a legacy will be created from this World Cup and we want to make sure that does happen,” he said. “It’s crucial that after the tournament that we don’t have the situation that kids are running around without shoes. We want to focus on youth development to make sure that our educational institutions are given priority and that an open space is no longer seen as an opportunity to open up a shack, but rather a centre of excellence.”