Togo football team back home without playing in African Cup
CABINDA: After a day of fraught negotiations, Togo last night flew home from the Africa Cup of Nations following Friday''s deadly gun attack but left the door open for a return later in the tournament.
As Angola and Mali kicked off in an eventful opening game, which was drawn 4-4, Togo headed for the airport in the northern province of Cabinda after being ordered to return by their prime minister, who sent the presidential plane to pick the players up.
The Togo striker and captain, Emmanuel Adebayor, told reporters at Cabinda airport: "We have to mourn our dead, we''re going back to do so. We''re very sad."
But even as the Togolese plane prepared to leave, a spokesman for the squad said a final decision on whether the team would quit the competition altogether had not been made. "We''re still talking with the players, no decision has been made yet. Everything is possible," he said.
The Togolese sports minister, Christophe Tchao, added to the uncertainty by saying Togo had asked the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to find a way for the team to rejoin the competition later.
Adebayor had earlier claimed his team were willing to stay but the decision appears to have been taken at Houngbo''s prompting, who maintained the side could not play while the goalkeeper Dodji Obilale remains in intensive care after the team bus was ambushed in Cabinda, killing three people.
Having said on Saturday they were pulling out, Togo''s players had had an abrupt volte-face in the early hours of yesterday morning. Then after Huangbo''s intervention the players decided again that they should leave Angola.
Adebayor said he had received support from members of the Ghana and Ivory Coast teams who were also drawn in the group based in Cabinda and condemned CAF for its response.
The cup got off to a sensational start last night as the hosts, leading 4-0 with 16 minutes to go, were pegged back by Mali in a pulsating 4-4 draw in front of a 50,000 crowd in Luanda. A spectacular fireworks display lit up the stadium, as fans observed a minute of silence as a sign of respect for the gun attack victims.