What the Togo attack means – and what it doesn’t

The repurcussions from last night’s machine gun attack on the Togolese football team will be felt around the world. This is not the first time an international sports team have been attacked like this and one immediate effect will be a dramatic increase in security for players around their hotel, at the stadium and while travelling in between. Organisers of the London Olympics, for example, will be going over their security plans again this weekend.

As for the African Cup of Nations, I can’t see it being cancelled, despite the calls from managers and clubs in Europe.  I expect the African Football Confederation (CAF) will try and move the matches due to be played there elsewhere. Once the tournament is over they will have some serious questions to answer as to why they thought holding matches in Cabinda, an oil-rich enclave with an active rebel group fighting for independence, was a good idea in the first place.

However, it is important we don’t over-react. Some people in football, particularly those with no understanding of Africa, will say this puts the World Cup in doubt. It doesn’t; or at least it shouldn’t. Angola – and Cabinda in particular – cannot be compared to South Africa.

But that’s not how the story will play out. Little of the coverage will mention the recent history of Cabinda and put the attack in context. Instead it will be: ‘Footballers shot in Africa’.

“And they’re going to have the World Cup there too?”

All those security firms that were advising World Cup teams heading to South Africa to bring armed guards and give the players flak jackets will be rubbing their hands with glee.


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