Soccer stars ambushed by gunmen
‘We were machine-gunned like dogs’
GUNMEN yesterday opened fire on the bus carrying the Togo national football team in Angola, wounding several players ahead of the African Cup of Nations.
“We were machine-gunned like dogs,” Togo player Thomas Dossevi, who plays for French club Nantes, told Radio Monte Carlo. “They were armed to the teeth … We spent 20 minutes underneath the seats of the bus.”
RMC reported that three players were seriously injured in the attack – Serge Gakpe, who plays for Monaco, Serge Akakpo of Romanian club Vaslui and Kodjovi Obilale of French lower league team Pontivy. The team’s top player, Emmanuel Adebayor, was aboard the bus but was not hurt, according to his club, Manchester City.
According to other reports, the bus driver was killed.
Dossevi said Akakpo “took a bullet in the back”.
“The official in charge of communications also stopped a bullet – he lost a lot of blood,” Dossevi added.
Of Obilale “there is no news” save for the fact that “he was bleeding a lot”.
“Getting shot on your way to a football match is just disgusting,” said Dossevi, who added he believed that a goalkeeping coach had also been hurt in the shooting.
“They should not have travelled by road,” Togolese football federation vice-president Gabriel Ameyi said in Lome. “They did not tell CAF that they were travelling by road. They should have flown to Angola.”
Ameyi said two team doctors were among the injured.
The injured were taken to a hospital in Cabinda, Angola’s main oilproducing region which has been plagued by unrest. Human rights groups have accused the military of atrocities and claim government officials have embezzled millions of dollars in oil revenue. The government has denied the charges.
“We had just crossed the border and were going through customs,” Dossevi told Infosport television in France.
“We were surrounded by police buses. Everything looked fine and we came under heavy fire. Everyone scrambled under the seats trying to protect themselves. It lasted at least a quarter of an hour with the police responding.”
Alaixys Romao, who plays for French club Grenoble, told RMC: “We’re all still in shock. As far as I know, seven people were hit by bursts of machine gun fire … the driver, our doctor, a member of the delegation, the assistant coach, the goalkeeping coach and two players.”
In England, Manchester City said: “Club officials have spoken with Adebayor and though shaken by the terrible events, he is unharmed.”
Aston Villa said midfielder Moustapha Salifou was also unhurt.
The 16-team African tournament starts on Sunday. Claude Leroy, who
was an ex-Cameroon and Ghana coach, said African footballing authorities now had to decide whether to play the tournament.
“You have to ask the question. Football’s just a game,” Leroy told RMC. “This is really serious and means that safety cannot be guaranteed. These local hotspots can be really dangerous. The CAF is going to have to take a decision on this crazy shooting.”
Togo are scheduled to play against Ghana in Cabinda on Monday. However, Dossevi said the players had already expressed a wish not to play.
“We don’t feel much like playing the CAN Cup. Our thoughts are with our friends, the injured,” said Dossevi, who plays in the French second division side Nantes.
Cabinda had been expected to deploy heavy security at its Chiazi stadium.
Chelsea stars Michael Essien of Ghana and Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba are due to play the group stages there, one of four Cup venues in the country, but not all the security will be for the Premier League stars.
Oil-rich Cabinda, separated from the rest of Angola by the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been embroiled in a longrunning independence struggle but is scheduled to host seven Nations Cup matches this month.
The conflict in the region officially ended in a 2006 deal with the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Flec).
Flec, however, has made several media claims in recent months about attacks on the military and foreign construction and oil workers based in the province. – Sapa-AFP-AP
LUCKY ESCAPE: Star striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
UNDER FIRE: Togo’s national team (back, left to right) Kodjovi Dodji Obilale, Senah Mango, Mohammed Abdel Kader Toure, Thomas Dossevi, Dare Nibombe, Emmanuel Adebayor; (front, left to right), Euloge Ahodikpe, Assimiou Toure, Serge Akakpo, Jacques Romao, Moustapha Salifou pose for a photograph before their World Cup 2010 qualifying match against Morocco at the Kegue stadium in Lome in September