2 Togo soccer players hurt in gun attack
Teammates believe team should boycott African Cup, return home
Gunmen in an Angolan area plagued by separatist violence opened fire on a bus carrying the team from Togo to the African Cup of Nations on Friday, wounding at least nine people including two players.
Togo players said they wanted to pull out of the 16-nation tournament, though a member of the Angola organizing committee said it would go ahead as scheduled from Sunday, when host Angola plays Mali.
"It's safe," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "Cabinda is completely safe. The national team of Burkina Faso has been there since 2 January."
Cabinda is scheduled to host Togo and other Group B teams Burkina Faso, Ghana and Ivory Coast plus a quarter-final through Jan. 24.
Ivory Coast, which has stars including Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Manchester City's Kolo Toure, arrived in Cabinda early Friday, the official said.
Togo's bus had just crossed the border into Angola when it came under fire.
"We were machine-gunned like dogs," Nantes striker Thomas Dossevi told Radio Monte Carlo from Luanda. "They were armed to the teeth ... We spent 20 minutes underneath the seats of the bus."
Dossevi told French TV channel Infosport: "We were surrounded by police buses. Everything looked fine and we came under heavy fire. Everyone scrambled under the seats, trying to protect themselves. It lasted at least a quarter of an hour with the police responding."
The wounded were taken to a hospital in Cabinda, and Portugal's state-run Lusa news agency said it received a communication from the region's main separatist group, FLEC, claiming to have carried out the attack.
Togo Football Federation vice-president Gabriel Ameyi said the team should have flown to Angola instead of travelling by road.
He said defender Serge Akakpo and backup goalkeeper Obilale Kossi were among those hurt.
Defender out of danger
FC Vaslui said on its website that the 22-year-old Akakpo, who joined the Romanian club from Auxerre last year, was hit by two bullets and lost a lot of blood but was now out of danger.
The attack on Togo was the second major gun attack on a sports team in less than a year. Several players were injured and six police officers killed when gunmen fired on the Sri Lanka cricket team's bus in Lahore, Pakistan, in March 2009.
The violence also comes five months before the World Cup in South Africa, the first to be held on the continent. The biggest concern leading to that 32-team tournament has been the security situation in South Africa, which has one of the world's highest crime rates.
Togo, which played at the 2006 World Cup, did not qualify for this year's finals.
Midfielder Alaixys Romao believed Togo should return home.
"If we can boycott it, let's do it," Romao told Infosport. "It's just not on for us to be shot at because of a [soccer] match. All I can think about is stopping this competition and going home."
Dossevi agreed: "We don't want to play this African Cup of Nations," he told Infosport. "We're thinking about our teammates — to be hit by bullets when you've come to play football is disgusting."
The driver of the team bus was reportedly killed and Emmanuel Adebayor said that "a lot of players want to leave, I don't think they want to be at this tournament anymore because they have seen their death already."
FIFA expressed "utmost sympathy" in a statement.
"FIFA and its president Joseph S. Blatter are deeply moved by today's incidents which affected Togo's national team," the statement said.
"FIFA is in touch with the African Football Confederation and its president, Issa Hayatou, from which it expects a full report on the situation."
The tournament will go ahead as planned, said a senior member of the local organizing committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He said Ivory Coast, considered the top African team, arrived early Friday in Cabinda, where Togo was also to be based as part of Group B. Burkina Faso had been there since Jan. 2, and Ghana was the other group member.
Togo was due to play in the opening group match on Monday against Ghana.
Former Cameroon and Ghana coach Claude Leroy said African soccer authorities should decide whether to play the tournament.
"You have to ask the question. [Soccer]'s just a game," Leroy told Radio Monte Carlo. "This is really serious and means that safety cannot be guaranteed. These local hotspots can be really dangerous. The CAF is going to have to take a decision on this crazy shooting."
Even if the tournament goes ahead, the attack was a major blow to host Angola.
Angola has been struggling to climb back from decades of violence, and its government was clearly banking on the tournament as a chance to show the world it was on the way to recovery. A building boom fuelled by oil wealth has included new stadiums in Cabinda and three other cities for the tournament.