Attack on Togo national team casts a shadow over African football

January 11, 2010

I really didn’t want to write this piece. I’d hoped the African Cup of Nations would be a glorious prelude to the biggest show of all, Africa’s first ever World Cup in June. I had hoped to see some brilliant attacking football, the sort of stuff exemplified by the Cameroon’s, Nigeria’s and Senegal’s of World Cups gone by. Instead, before the tournament even starts the Togo side were attacked on the way to the tournament.

Whilst this is a horrendous act of terrorism, and my thoughts go out to the team and their families, I can’t but help look at the bigger picture. Now I know, Angola and South Africa aren’t neighbours (although Angola shares a border with Botswana and Namibia, as does South Africa) the fact this is the continent’s first World Cup surely means we should be concerned by this lack of security.

Now my good friend Ross wrote a piece on the perils of Africa back in November, and this latest attack is just another tragedy in a long line of horrific events on the continent. However, if FIFA and CAF can’t keep the players safe, what chance do they have of ensuring the security of millions fans in June?

Now I’m expecting a few of you to think I’m scaremongering, and that FIFA will learn from this. Maybe I am, but I am genuinely concerned about the tournament itself. And I think the blame lies squarely at Sepp Blatter’s door.

The World Cup can bring so much to a nation. Much needed income is thrust into the economy, which can only benefit South Africa and hopefully the continent as a whole. However, I think the question needs to be asked is ‘has this World Cup been awarded too soon?’

Sepp Blatter has said throughout his reign as FIFA chief that he wanted to take the World Cup to Africa. It became his dream, his over-riding goal. And I admire that, I really do. However, it is of no coincidence that his reign is due to finish soon, and if he had not been influential in South Africa gaining this competition, he will have failed in his goal.

I must pose this question to you all though; is failure in that goal really as bad as the death of the Togolese last Friday?

I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.

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