CABINDA - Togoâ€™s national team will return home and not compete in Africaâ€™s biggest soccer tournament, captain Emmanuel Adebayor said on Sunday, after gunmen killed a squad coach and press officer in an ambush.
Fridayâ€™s ambush shows how easily insurgents can grab world headlines with attacks on soft targets. It also raises questions about security for the soccer World Cup in South Africa in June, but South African President Jacob Zuma dismissed any comparison.
After the initial shock of the attack, Togolese players, their head coach and national soccer officials all said they would remain in the competition, but their prime minister ordered the team home and sent a plane to bring them back.
â€œWe had a meeting between players yesterday and we told ourselves we were football players and decided to do something nice for our country by playing to pay tribute to those who diedâ€ Adebayor said on Sunday.
â€œUnfortunately, the head of state and the countryâ€™s authorities have made a different decision, so we will pack and go home.â€
Togo midfielder Thomas Dossevi told Reuters: â€œWeâ€™re going home, weâ€™re obliged to, the government wants us to. If they are still going to play matches in Cabinda, there will be more problems there. Weâ€™re afraid for the other teams.â€
Togo were due to play Ghana on Monday. Team media officer Stanislas Ocloo, assistant coach Amalete Abalo and a driver were killed when gunmen from the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda fired on their bus in Cabinda, a territory separate from the rest of Angola.
Seven people were wounded including reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale, who is now in a stable condition in a South African hospital after surgery.
The attack, staged by a separatist group Angolaâ€™s government recently said no longer existed, cast a shadow over an event supposed to show the country at peace after years of civil war.
The African Cup of Nations was due to start with fireworks and champagne at a massive stadium in the capital Luanda, where the hosts played Mali in the opening match later on Sunday.
Togo go home over team security concern