In Togolese Memoriam

Exactly a year ago today, Africa sacrificed its sons for the beautiful game.  IBWM remembers.  Here’s Gary Al-Smith.

The Togolese military are very well organised, unlike many other state institutions. When a VVIP military leader passes on, a 21-gun salute is standard. All that I have to say about this incident, I have said in a previous article, which I wrote last year for this site.

And so on this day, one year to the day from the tragic events at the 2010 African Cup of Nations, here’s a 21-gun salute of a different sort: 21 quotes that tell the story of the Togo bus attack.

Legalbrief Africa, August 2007 [think of it as a WikiLeaks of sorts]
“The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) has argued that Angola is exploiting the natural resources of Cabinda while denying any significant benefit to the people of Cabinda. FLEC is requesting that the African Commission appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate the situation and make recommendations.”

Note: this is almost three years before the Togo bus attack. The request was never granted. Consider this as background.

André Fernandes, 30-year-old football fan
"It's the first time that we've organised the Africa Cup of Nations and we're here to celebrate. It's going to be great to see the African stars. We've got Angolans who play in Europe, but some of the big names in world football are going to be here."

Moustapha Salifou, Togo midfielder
"We didn't see anybody, we just heard the shooting. There was a gunfight outside the bus for 20 minutes. The attackers shot the driver and after two or three minutes all the players had to lie on the floor and everyone was just crying. We had to wait for 30 minutes. I did not feel I would make it off that bus alive. We had to lie on the floor and the gunshots passed over our heads. To be honest, I was thinking everyone was going to die in the coach. But God saved us.”

Moustapha Salifou. Togo midfielder
"When it was all over everyone was crying. We had to crawl out of the bus and I looked down and there was blood on the floor. We were all taken to hospital. My friend was shot. He said to me: 'If I die now, who is going to look after my kids?' Everybody started to cry again."

Alaixys Romao, Togo midfielder
"It's true that no one wants to play. We're not capable of it.”

Thomas Dossevi, Togo striker
"We were machine-gunned like dogs. We don’t want to play this African Cup of Nations. We’re thinking about our teammates – to be hit by bullets when you’ve come to play football is disgusting.”

Emmanuel Adebayor, Togo striker
"We are still in shock. If the security is not sure then we will be leaving tomorrow. I don't think they will be ready to give their life. We will discuss everything as a team and we will take a decision that we think is good for our career, is good for our life and good for our family."

Rodrigues Mingas, secretary general, Flec
"This attack was not aimed at the Togolese players but at the Angolan forces at the head of the convoy. So it was pure chance that the gunfire hit the players. We don't have anything to do with the Togolese and we present our condolences to the African families and the Togo government. We are fighting for the total liberation of Cabinda." editorial headline
“After Togo Bus Attack, Games Need To Be Moved”

Bento Bembe, Angolan government minister
“There is no reason not to organise the Nations Cup in Cabinda. I have confidence in our security and defence forces. This incident does not negate the effectiveness of Angola's defence forces.”

Souleymane Habuba, CAF’s communications director
“Our great concern is for the players, but the championship goes ahead. CAF’s regulations are clear, teams are required to fly rather than travel by bus [as Togo did].”

Gilbert Huongbo, Togo Prime Minister
"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."

FIFPro, world footballers’ union.
“Caf should leave no stone unturned, assuming the Cup can go ahead, to ensure the security of players and those accompanying them.”

Sajjan Gohel, international security director, Asia-Pacific Foundation.
"Although it is not in South Africa it is in southern Africa, so I suppose many people were looking at it in a similar light."

Danny Jordaan, the chief World Cup organiser in South Africa.
“Fortunately the majority of the world is not influenced by a warped understanding of the African continent. If there is a war in Kosovo and a World Cup in Germany no one asks if the World Cup can go on in Germany. Everyone understands the war in Kosovo is a war in Kosovo."

Tribute by Togolese team to dead colleagues
“Without fear for your lives, you have always been combatants. Each one of you has scored a positive winning goal together for the Sparrow Hawks.”

Kodjovi Obilale, ex-Togo goalkeeper
"There are people who just don't have hearts. All they think of is counting their cash. Honestly, if my name was Samuel Eto'o or Didier Drogba it wouldn't be happening like this. Nobody would be offering me $25,000 [the sum FIFA originally offered] or $100,000. But it's because I play for Pontivy. [But] we all kick the same ball - it should be fair for everyone. They don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow, what my plans are. Nobody is asking.”

Herve Pizza, 1st VP, Togolese Football Federation
"We want to give him a surprise, so that he understands all the board is entirely on his side."

"This tragedy took place during the Africa Cup of Nations, which is organized by Caf and not by Fifa. The regulations of the organizer are the ones which apply, and there are no specific Fifa regulations for such competitions."

Arsene Wenger on Adebayor’s season after the attacks
“I think what happened with the national team had an influence on his mind because last year before he went to the African Nations Cup he was doing extremely well. What happened was not a small incident and for the rest of the season certainly it had an impact.”

“Caf have been shit. Fifa have not been not too far behind. In their eyes the rest of us don’t really matter and it’s all too bad.”

Gary Al-Smith is a freelance football writer for ESPNSoccernet, Kicker and others. Get him @garyalsmith