FIFA and its confederations take political interference into sporting affairs pretty seriously. Perhaps too seriously, given certain circumstances.
The decision of CAF to ban Togo from the next two Africa Cup of Nations because of the decision of the Togolese government to withdraw the team from the current tournament is defended by the confederation as follows:
The Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football met on 30 January 2010 and examined the withdrawal of Togo national team from the Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2010.
The Executive Committee and its president renewed their sincere condolences to the families of victims involved in this tragic terrorist attack which happened January 8, 2010. The attack was condemned by CAF and also a total support was given to the Togolese team.
At that time, CAF said they have understood perfectly the decision of players not to participate in the competition.
Meanwhile, following a decision taken by players to participate in the competition, the Togolese government decided to call back their national team.
The decision taken by the political authorities is infringing CAF and CAN regulations. Therefore, a decision has been taken to suspend the Togo national team for the next two editions of Africa Cup of Nations, with a fine of $50,000.00 handed to the Togolese national football association, in conformity with article 78 of Africa Cup of Nations Angola 2010.
CAF then links to their regulations to prove their point (actually, they don’t: the link doesn’t work).
Togo midfielder Thomas Dossevi expressed his disappointment.
“We are a group of footballers who came under fire and now we can’t play football any more. They are crushing us. Togo should appeal the suspension. When we said we were going home for a three-day mourning they said they were with us in this ordeal and now they punish us.”
This comes just five days after CAF president Issa Hayatou said “We wished they would have stayed but respect their decision to leave.”
Can anyone offer a serious defense for this decision? We like to look past the obvious reaction here, but I can’t think of much more to say about CAF’s insensitivity here, expect that it’s remarkable they couldn’t even wait for the dust to settle on the tournament and the brutal attack on Togo before laying down the hammer on a still grieving team.