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Terrible news broke today that the Togo team bus was attacked on its way to the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, with machine gun fire leaving the driver dead and several players hurt.
The incident has many questioning the safety of players for the World Cup in South Africa. The Telegraph’s Henry Winter tweeted right away that “Fifa must investigate events in Angola and improve teams’ safety before World Cup. S Africa are organised but nothing can be left to chance.”
Togo’s bus was attacked just after crossing the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo the Republic of the Congo into the Cabinda region of Angola, an area that has seen three decades of separatist violence, even after the conclusion of the Angolan civil war in 2002. There was apparently a very foolish decision made to travel through there by bus, one apparently not communicated to the organisers of the tournament, the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF).
“They should not have travelled by road,” Togolese football federation vice-president Gabriel Ameyi told The Associated Press. “They did not tell CAF that they were travelling by road. They should have flown to Angola.” (Was the Togolese federation itself unaware of their team’s travel plans? Ameyi’s comments are rather curious in this regard.)
“We were machine-gunned, like dogs,” Togo striker Thomas Dossevi said. “At the border with Angola – machine-gunned! I don’t know why. I thought it was some rebels. We were under the seats of the bus for 20 minutes, trying to get away from the bullets.”
To return to Winter’s comment, and those of many who will conflate this incident with concerns for the World Cup: neither the DR Congo or Angola even borders South Africa. FIFA will run the World Cup, not CAF. All teams will fly to their destinations. Africa is a vast, diverse continent, dangerous in parts, just as Europe, South America, North America and Asia are. Certainly, FIFA should work as hard as it can to ensure the safety of teams travelling there. Today’s incident was a tragic reminder that football administrators must always do so, and it appears there was a failure here by someone. But that doesn’t mean Angola is South Africa.