Confusion reigns over Togo’s participation in the African Cup of Nations following the Prime Minister’s insistence that the team return home despite the players’ willingness to play in the tournament.
Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo said the national team must return to Togo and not compete in Africa’s biggest football tournament after two of its delegation were killed when the team bus was ambushed by separatists.
“If a team or some people present themselves under the Togolese flag, it will be a false representation,” he said.
Captain Emmanuel Adebayor said: “We will do what the government asks us to do. If their decision is that we have to come back home, we will come back home – and it seems that we will.”
A player and a Togo official in Angola had insisted earlier that the team would play in the tournament, which began yesterday..
“Togo are staying in the competition. I have called the players and they want to play. We are now awaiting official confirmation from the Togolese government,” said Kodzo Samlan, general secretary of the Togo soccer federation and a press officer for the Confederation of African Football.
He added that Adebayor was with the team in Angola’s Cabinda enclave. His club Manchester City had said on Saturday that the striker was leaving the country.
The team’s media officer Stanislas Ocloo and assistant coach Amalete Abalo were killed along with the bus driver. Seven people were wounded including reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale, who is in a stable condition in a South African hospital after surgery.
Early indications yesterday were that the players had determined to be ready for their first Group B match today, and witnesses saw the team practicing yesterday morning.
“We have just had a meeting of the whole delegation and we will be on the pitch on Monday to face Ghana,” Tidesports source quoted midfielder Alaixys Romao as saying.
“People have died for the African Nations Cup, others have been injured. We can’t let them down and leave like cowards,” said Romao, who plays for French club side Grenoble.
“Our government does not necessarily agree with us but we are all determined to play this competition.”
Angola has spent $1 billion (£700m) building stadiums, roads and hotels for the competition, which brings together Africa’s best national teams. The bi-ennial tournament, which lasts until January 31, will be broadcast live around the world.
The African Cup of Nations started with fireworks and champagne at a massive stadium in the capital Luanda, where the hosts played Mali in the opening match yesterday.
But Friday’s attack on the Togo team, staged by the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda which the government said recently no longer existed, cast a shadow over an event supposed to show Angola was at peace after years of civil war.
Security analysts said the ambush showed how easily insurgents can grab world headlines.
Cabinda, the scene of FLEC attacks even after Angola’s 27-year civil war ended in 2002, provides half the oil output of Angola, which rivals Nigeria as Africa’s biggest producer.
It was the second militant attack on a sports team in less than a year. Last March, six policemen and a driver were killed when gunmen attacked a bus carrying Sri Lanka’s cricket team in Pakistan.
Friday’s assault raised questions about security for the soccer World Cup taking place in South Africa in June, but organisers of that event dismissed any comparisons. South Africa is the first African nation to hold the world’s biggest single-sport event.
Security analysts said outsiders involved in the World Cup are unlikely to ignore the Angolan attack and will want to review South Africa’s security preparations.
South African President Jacob Zuma attended yesterday’s opening ceremony despite the attack.
Cabinda, wedged between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo, is due to host seven matches.
2021/2022 NPFL Season Starts, Dec 17
The 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season is expected to kick off on December 17th across 10 centres.
Defending champions, Akwa United, will start their title defence at home in a Match Day 1 fixture against Kano Pillar at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo
Elsewhere, Gombe United hosts Shooting Stars Sports Club to the Pantami stadium in Gombe in both teams’ first game of their returned season to the top flight.
The Pride of Benue, Lobi Stars, will host Rivers United at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi with the club’s Manager, Eddy Dombraye, leading his side against his state for the first time in many years.
The first oriental derby match of the new season is among the opening fixtures with Enyimba FC playing host to their arch-rivals Abia Warriors in Aba, while Enugu Rangers travel to Katsina to face the Changi boys, Katsina United.
Niger Tornadoes will welcome Plateau United at their temporary home ground in Kaduna while there will be a reunion, sort of in Akure when Sunshine Stars face their former manager, Kabiru Dogo and Fuad Ekelojuoti who are now with Wikki Tourists at the Ondo Sports Complex, Akure.
Another matchday one fixture will see Kwara United host Dakkada in Ilorin. Kwara United almost won the league title last season, before Akwa United secured the title with seven points gap, while the Olukoya boys, MFM FC, will host regional rivals, Remo Stars, at the Agege Stadium.
The Solid Miners, Nasarawa United will travel to Owerri to face Heartland in another opening day tie.
Delta Principals Cup: Sponsor Splashes Goodies On Finalists
The sponsor of the on-going Delta State Principals’ Cup football competition, Zenith Bank, has promised that loads of goodies will be given to the finalists of the annual event.
The competition, now in its 5th edition, is a developmental football competition organised for all secondary schools in the state.
Zenith Bank’s Group Managing Director, Ebenezer Onyeagwu, said that the last four teams will be rewarded with various ranges of gift items as part of the final day activities.
“We are very committed to developmental pro-grammes in various ways. For sports, we believe in our catch them young initiatives, of which the Delta Principals’ Cup is one of them.
“I congratulate all the finalists for the 2021 event and wish to show that they are all winners, all of them will go home with attractive gift items on final day next week,” Onyeagwu said.
Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, will host the final match between Osadenis Mixed Secondary School and School of Com-merce on November 30.
Alaka Grammar School, Ozoro and Ovwor Mixed Secondary School will clash in the Third Place match billed to be the curtain raiser before the final match involving the defending champions, School of Commerce and Osadenis Mixed School.
US-Based Okorie Plans Maiden South-East Sports Festival
United States-based Nigerian former athlete, Victor Okorie, is planning to stage a maiden Southeast Sports Festival in 2022 to prepare athletes in the region for the national sports festival billed to hold in Asaba, Delta State.
Okorie, who is the Performance Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), said he would meet with governors and some stakeholders in the region soon, as part of his arrangements for the event.
Before his emergence as the Southeast zonal representative on the AFN board during the elective congress held in Abuja on June 14, Okorie had sponsored a competition for track and field athletes through his pet project, the South East Sports Foundation.
The competition, which held in Enugu, saw athletes from Abia, Anambra, Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi compete for prizes in sprint events, throw and jump.
The foundation also plans to organise competitions for the physically challenged athletes in the zone in line with Okorie’s view of taking physically challenged athletes in Southeast away from the streets, as well as integrate athletes in volleyball, handball, wrestling, and other sports on the same level with their foreign-based counterparts.
Speaking with newsmen, from his base in Tennessee, USA, Wednesday, Okorie, who won a silver medal for Nigeria at COJA 2003 All Africa Games in Abuja, said that the maiden Southeast Sports Festival would give the states chance to raise formidable squad for Asaba 2022.
“Sports are one major avenue governors in the southeast states can use to empower youths in the region,” Okorie said.
“I will meet with them and other stakeholders soon, on how we will stage a successful Southeast Sports Festival, which will serve as selection ground ahead of Asaba 2022 National Sports Festival. There is the need to re-awake sports campaign in the Southeast zone. Maybe, the next host of the national sSports festival will come from the Southeast after Asaba 2022,” he added.
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