Togo Team Attacked: Is South Africa's 2010 World Cup in Jeopardy?
In less than two days, the 2010 African Cup of Nations is due to get underway in Angola.
However, some disturbing news coming out of Africa today has created doubt as to whether one of the teams will compete.
The Togo national side, including Premier League players Emmanuel Adebayor and Moustapha Salifou, were attacked by a militia group while entering Angola. Heavy gunfire rained down on their coach, killing the driver and injuring six others.
Had the attackers not mistakenly gunned the coach carrying the team's kit first, the casualties may have been even more devastating.
The situation confirmed the worst fears about a tournament being held in Angola, a country only recently released from the grip of a devastating civil war, and still ravaged by poverty and violence.
It also seems to have highlighted wider problems, most significantly of all the issue of the upcoming World Cup in South Africa.
The whole world was watching Angola and treating it almost as a dress rehearsal for South Africa. To have such a serious incident before the tournament has even begun raises major doubts ahead of the World Cup.
But can we really draw parallels between the two?
I don't think we can.
Angola is a country much worse off than South Africa. With a life expectancy of just 47, less than Somalia, Iran, and Iraq, Angola's problems go far beyond that of hosting a sporting event.
South Africa's figures aren't too much better, but they are heavily affected by the poverty some areas are plunged into, a side of the country the visiting nations in the World Cup are unlikely to experience.
Unlike places such as Angola, South Africa does have many wealthy areas in which the life expectancy is closer to that of the likes of America and England.
Concerns have been voiced over the notorious murder rates that make some areas in South Africa among the most dangerous in the world, but they have significantly improved in recent years.
Many people may look at today's unfortunate events and conclude that Africa is not fit to host a tournament of such magnitude as the World Cup, but that would be incredibly naive.
Angola and South Africa are over 1,000 miles apart, and the issues Angola are experiencing will bear no relation to those South Africa face.
While both areas have problems of their own, it is impossible to draw conclusions or predictions regarding the World Cup based solely on today's attacks in Angola.
To do so would be akin to questioning the 2006 World Cup in Germany due to the violence in Serbia.
To label Africa as a war-torn continent would be to grossly generalize. The sad fact is, however, that places like Angola experience violence like this on a weekly, perhaps even daily, basis.
FIFA's decision for allowing them to host such a prestigious tournament could possibly be questioned in this case.
Their decision to let South Africa host the World Cup, however, shouldn't be.
The rise of African football has been meteoric in recent years, with some of the world's top clubs relying on their African stars.
Barcelona have Yaya Toure, Inter Milan have Samuel Eto'o, and Chelsea have Didier Drogba and Michael Essien, to name just three.
With such a world class influx of players, it was only right that Africa should host a World Cup.
FIFA are then faced with the dilemma of where in Africa. I have already said that it would be wrong to generalize the state of African countries, but most of them are, unfortunately, incapable of hosting a World Cup.
South Africa, despite all its well documented problems, was the only stand-out choice.
And while the tournament shouldn't be jeopardised by the attacks on the Togolese national side, lessons can certainly be learned. Anything that prevents such an incident happening again should be an utmost priority, especially as extra attention will be credited to such issues now.
Precautions should be made, not just for the South African inhabitants, but for the visitors too.
Today's attack was by, it is assumed, Angolan natives, but any potential trouble in South Africa is equally likely, perhaps more so, to come through the form of the visiting fans.
In short, the attack on the Togo national side should have no influence on this year's World Cup at all, unless the governing forces turn it into a positive one by taking extra precautions when it comes to safety.
A successfully hosted World Cup is exactly what Africa needs to put it permanently on football's map, and this year's tournament should provide exactly that.
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