Sunday, January 10, 2010

African Cup of Nations Tragedy

I have been in Angola and I found it a wonderful country with wonderful people. Still, it has a sad history, poverty and violence, and although the country was awarded to host the 2010 African Cup of Nations the violence have alreayd overshadowed the entire tournament.
Upon passing the border from the DR Congo to the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, the bus carrying Togo's national side was attacked by gunmen of the separatist group FLEC. Three members of Togo's entourage have been confirmed killed, and Togo has understandably decided to withdraw from the tournament, where they otherwise faced some interesting matches against Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Burkina Faso.
There is nothing that can be said about the human tragedy here, but in footballing terms the real tragedy is for African football. At a time when Africa is set to host its first world cup, and when the world is finally looking to the African Cup of Nations as a tournament where serious World Cup contenders are participating (I am in Venezuela, where they for the first time are going to show live matches from the tournament), this can only put things in the wrong light, and take attention away from the high quality football we can expect.
That said, it means nothing for South Africa 2010: a different country and a different place, and indeed, Cabinda is a place that has been in conflict for decades - in this sense it more seemed like a miscalculation from Angolan authorities to have set matches there, as well as not have provided the proper protection for the Togolese team.

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