Trouble in Africa Raises Concerns for World Cup

The football world has been left in disbelief this week with the events in Africa that have lead to Togo withdrawing from the competition after gunmen attacked the team bus and left 3 people dead and others injured. The attack has shocked the sporting world and has led to serious questions being asked about whether the tournament should go ahead, as well as the wider implications for the World Cup in South Africa in a few months time.

It came as no surprise that the Togolese team decided not to take part in the competition, football pales into insignificance when lives are lost and there’s no way any of the players could have concentrated on playing when they had lost friends to the attack. However, there were calls from the organisers of the tournament for Togo to stay and play and even the threat of serious sanctions against them, such as long term bans from competition, if they didn’t take part. I can’t believe this lack of compassion after such an awful event, and find it hard to believe that even if that conversation was taking place that it somehow managed to get leaked to the press. I think Mark Lawrenson summed it up nicely on Football Focus, pointing out that the players lives were more important than football and that those involved in the attack (if not everyone) should be back with their families as soon as possible, not playing a game and risking further danger.

Many of the Premier League managers have spoken out about the affair, Phil Brown being particularly vocal in saying that the players should be on the first plane home and forget about the Cup of Nations. This was echoed by the majority of his colleagues, barring Arsene Wenger who suggested that the competition should continue as anything else would be handing the terrorists a victory in kind. This is a fair point from Wenger, it’s true that people who behave in this way shouldn’t be allowed to alter the arrangements in one fell swoop and cancelling the tournament would have done exactly that. However, i think if i was in the shoes of the Togolese players my thoughts would have been a long way from playing a football match and focused on seeing my family and loved ones. Some of the players have talked of continuing in the competition in order to honour those that died, but in my opinion the risk is too high despite the honourable sentiments.

The situation has obviously raised a question mark over this summers World Cup in South Africa as well, the first to be staged on the continent. How can safety be ensured for an even higher profile event? South Africa’s past troubles have been well documented and the idea that an English team bus could be caught up in a shooting is unthinkable. That risk needs to be all but wiped out as if there is any hint of danger arisen then i’m sure the changes will be made, whether that is moving the venue and/or postponing the event altogether. Of course, South Africa is a long way from where the attacks have taken place and i’m sure the necessary precautions will be put in place, but seeds of doubt have been planted and that is exactly what the continent didn’t need. The World Cup was supposed to be a sign of how far Africa has come, but it could end up being an illustration that it hasn’t come far enough.


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