Soc­cer stars am­bushed by gun­men

‘We were ma­chine-gunned like dogs’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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

PIC­TURE: GETTY IM­AGES

LUCKY ES­CAPE: Star striker Em­manuel Ade­bayor.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

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

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