Saturday, January 9, 2010

What manner of Nations Cup is Angola?

For those of you that have been readers of this blog, you will recall that I asked  "Will Angola be a disaster?" on the 16th of October.

Even though I always knew that the challenges of the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola were going, as a result of their infrastructural limitations, to be immense, I am shocked and stunned by the terrorist attack on Togo's national team by the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC).

The team were in the thick of gunfire for 30 minutes, as they drove into the country for the Nations Cup campaign from DR Congo.

The driver of the team's bus, as well as the assistant coach and the team's media officer, were killed and defender Serge Akakpo and reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale have been taken to hospital after being hit by bullets. They are very lucky that they were not all killed.

In a statement FLEC released, it said that " This operation is only the beginning of a series of targeted attacks that will continue in all the territory of Cabinda."

There are no two ways about this - this incident has made a complete mess of the new, improved image that Angola is trying to portray. It is a horrible prelude to the start of the tournament.

The African Cup of Nations has had to deal with many challenges in its 53-year history but never has it had to cope with the scourge of terrorism.

How were the Togolese players supposed to have shaken off such a tragedy and remained in Angola to start their Nations Cup campaign against Ghana's Black Stars on Monday?

And how safe will the travelling fans, who may not have the same level of security as the teams, be in their makeshift camp grounds or one or two-star hotels in Cabinda?  

With due respect to the overwhelming majority of warm, peace-loving Angolans and officials of the Confederation of African Football, it was a MONUMENTAL MISTAKE to have sited the group stages in an area that has been the hotbed of a separatist movement for several years.

What happens should the terrorists decide to launch attacks at the hotel of the teams or at the stadium itself? Have CAF's security officers thought long and hard about this?

Suleiman Habuba, CAF's communication director, says the show must go on, regardless, pointing out that the teams had been instructed to travel by air only.

But this is not the point. Is it right to stage a tournament in a region of the country where travelling on the roads is potentially fatal? 

What happens when the players, fans and officials are going from their hotels to the training ground or the stadium? Are they going to fly to these places as well?

Should they insist on holding matches in this zone, CAF and the Angolan authorities should be prepared for a whirlwind of stinging criticism should anything should happen again. They are obviously prepared to take responsibility for that, it appears...

But Togo, who have withdrawn from the tournament, understandably have no wish to believe such 'promises', as they return to Lome to mourn and bury their dead.

I had contemplated being in the country just before the start of the quarter-finals. Now, there is absolutely no chance... This is certainly not a good way to start the year of African football.

Caf officials have a lot to think about and to answer for. But will the continent's football community hold them to account? I very much doubt it.


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