Togo’s soccer ban goes to arbitration

By RON FANFAIR

The Court of Arbitration for Sport will adjudicate Togo’s soccer ban from the African Nations Cup. Togo has been excluded from the next two tournaments.

The ban was imposed after the West African country pulled out of the recent tournament in Angola in the wake of a fatal gun attack that left two members of the Togo party dead.

The Confederation of African Soccer says the Togolese Prime Minister’s insistence that the team return home amounted to “governmental interference”.  The court has asked the federation for a written report to express its position on Togo’s request to put any sanctions on hold while the case is heard. This would allow the country to be included in Saturday’s draw for the 2012 Nations Cup qualifying campaign.

The head of the interim committee running Togolese soccer – General Seyi Memene – said that a panel of lawyers had been appointed to deal with the case. Memene is also a CAF vice-chair, but he denied there was any conflict of interest in this position.

“First of all, I am Togolese so I pray to God that this sanction is lifted,” he said.

Memene was appointed by soccer’s world governing body in January to try and resolve the disputes which have divided the Togo Soccer Federation.

When they imposed the two-tournament ban, the Confederation of African Soccer said the Togo players had wanted to continue playing in Angola, but were forced to return by their country’s government.

And, Benin striker Razak Omotoyossi claims his country’s soccer authorities have tried to tarnish the image of the national squad.

The entire coaching and playing staff were sacked after the recent Africa Cup of Nations. The Benin Soccer Federation cited indiscipline and a lack of patriotism for the move.

‘We are not undisciplined players and they just want to tarnish our image,” he said. “The truth is the players were fighting for their rights.”

Benin lost two games and drew one at the tournament.

Meanwhile, the Gabon Soccer Federation has said it will not renew the contract of coach Alain Giresse after he failed to lead the country beyond the group stages at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 54-year-old Frenchman is the latest coaching victim of the recently completed finals in Angola after Benin, Mali and Nigeria made changes.

Giresse had been in charge of Gabon for four years. He took the team to the top of their World Cup qualifying group at the halfway stage before losses to Cameroon saw them miss out on a berth at this year’s World Cup in South Africa.

Gabon avenged the two defeats by beating Cameroon 1-0 at the start of the Nations Cup. The team then drew with Tunisia and lost to Zambia.
Gabon and Equatorial Guinea are co-hosting the 2010 Nations Cup tournament.

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