The Sweeper: Togo Ban Fallout Continues

Big Story

While BBC African football blogger Piers Edwards’ opening sentence on his post yesterday may be slightly over-the-top (“Not since Buckingham Palace took so long to respond Princess Diana’s death in 1997 has an organisation so badly misjudged the mood of the public”), he does capture a bit of the public mood following Caf’s decision to fine Togo $50 000 and ban them from the next two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.

Edwards is closer to the mark when he writes:

Caf argues that the African game doesn’t get the coverage it deserves – but how is Sunday’s Nations Cup final between Egypt and Ghana going to be about football when announcing this decision 24 hours beforehand?

Even while this tournament has progressed and become about the football, there was always the feeling that the Cabinda attack, which took place 48 hours before the opening game, would overshadow it.

Now it certainly will, as Caf reignited a fading ember at the worst moment.

And it’s true: in lieu of a preview of today’s final between Ghana and Egypt, most of the English news sites featured Emmanuel Adebayor’s bitter reaction in L’Equipe to Caf’s Cameroonian President, Issa Hayatou: “Mr Hayatou has served Africa extensively, but now he must escape…this decision is outrageous” (although, oddly, Jonathan Wilson’s tournament diary gives the news one sentence, the headline reading “all’s well”).  Any hope of a goodwill story leading up to the final, like the re-emergence of Ghanaian forward, Asamoah Gyan, has been definitively quashed.

FIFA is yet to issue a statement on the decision, and none more than Togo’s coach Hubert Velud are hoping for strong leadership from Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini:

I am curious to know if Blatter and Platini will endorse this decision.  If they let this go, it is the gateway to completely dysfunctional football. I officially launched an appeal to international bodies to see their reaction.

The relationship between politics and football is always a complex balancing act, but if there was ever an appropriate instance to allow a merciful exception to the rule, this was it.  By timing the decision immediately before the tournament final, Issa Hyatou and Caf have effectively ended any hope the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations will be remembered for anything other than violent attack, and the cynical politicking that followed.

Worldwide Stories:

  • Meanwhile, Paul Wilson at the Guardian writes a scathing summary of the reasons behind slow ticket sales ahead of the World Cup in South Africa: “Cheap tickets or easier access may have persuaded more people to take a risk, but it is too late now. Fifa are stuck with an unholy triangle of security scares, expensive tickets and hotels, and too few flights into the country.”
  • All geared up for next week’s Super Bowl action?  Well, you’ll be delighted to know that the NFL’s flagship final has been usurped by the Champions League in global viewership, and the trend looks to continue: “The Super Bowl, traditionally the biggest TV event in global club sport, attracted 106m live viewers for the whole thing, with a reach of 162m. ‘That was Super Bowl’s best ever figure, and as an event it’s still growing,’ said Kevin Alavy, an Initiative director. ‘Extraordinarily, the Champions’ League is growing faster, with room for further significant expansion.’”
  • When Saturday Comes pays heed to the use of the “stern talking to” instead of a first half yellow card.
  • And what finally, what all that John Terry business means for him financially.  If you must.

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