On the eve of the African Nations Cup final, CAF have made themselves look like the least sensitive people on the face of the planet.
You’ve just had two of your officials shot to death, your reserve goalkeeper nearly paralysed and put in intensive care, a whole bunch of other people you know riddled with wounds, and everyone around you scared absolutely shitless.
The last thing you really need is some suit-wearing, grudge-bearing Confederation official coming along and pissing on your wounds.
That is exactly what CAF have done by banning Togo from the next two Nations Cups.
"The executive committee has banned Togo from the next two African Nations Cup and fined the Togo FA 50,000 U.S. dollars. The players publicly expressed their willingness to return to the Nations Cup to compete. But the Togo government decided to call back their national team," Caf explained in its statement. "The decision by political authorities contravenes Caf and African Nations Cup regulations.”
I would laugh if it wasn’t so completely, inappropriately insensitive, if it didn’t insult the dead, and if it wasn’t the single biggest example of historical revisionism I have seen in many a month. Here’s quote from Thomas Dossevi, a member of their squad:
"We don’t really want to play in the Africa Cup of Nations," he said. "We are thinking of our friends, the injured players."
Another player, Alaixys Romao added:
"We’re not thinking yet of what could happen, but it’s true that no-one wants to play. We’re not capable of it."
Emmanuel Adebayor doesn’t sound like the kind of person who wants to play football.
"I’m still under shock, I was one of those who carried the injured players into the hospital – that is when I realised what was really going on. All the players, everyone was crying, calling their mums, crying on the phone, saying their last words because they thought they’d be dead."
When Togo withdrew from the ANC, only complete buffoons thought they were doing the wrong thing. Granted, there were plenty of arguments as to why they should stay, but none of them were put forward by someone who’d seen their best mate get shot in the spine.
The sheer level of ignorance displayed by CAF is staggering—to the point where you have to wonder if they are even human.
"Do you want us to tell the Angolan government to stop the tournament because a little group put out a release?" the president, Issa Hayatou said. "FIFA received threats in Nigeria from a rebel group but did they suspend the competition? No—and I went there despite the threats."
So that’s absolutely fine then. It really doesn’t matter now, because "you can’t let terrorists win" and "the show must go on" and "I was really brave before."
The threats in Nigeria came to nothing, but that doesn’t mean you ignore them. You step up security and, if a team gets machine gunned, then yes, you pull the plug on the tournament and stage it somewhere safer.
Another absolute nugget from the president:
"Why would we regret bringing the competition here? What happened with Togo happened outside the city of Cabinda—nothing happened in the perimeter of the city, which the Angolan government put at our disposal."
Perhaps some block caps and bold type will aid me. YOU REGRET BRINGING THE COMPETITION TO WAR-TORN, REBEL-INFESTED ANGOLA BECAUSE ONE OF THE TEAMS PLAYING IN IT GOT MACHINE GUNNED ON THEIR TEAM COACH. IT DOESN’T MATTER IF IT WAS IN CABINDA OR NOT.
Do they really, genuinely think that it’s okay because it didn’t happen inside the city limits? And are CAF forgetting that this was the 2010 ANC Angola, or am I mistaken, and it’s the ANC Cabinda?
The decision to disqualify them also flies in the face of the following statement released after Togo withdrew, made by the same absolute clown.
"We did not disqualify them. We simply noted their departure. We wished they would have stayed but respect their decision to leave."
Respect their decision to leave doesn’t coincide with their decision to punish them in the aftermath.
I’m getting angrier and angrier as I write this. The reputation of African football was shaken by the Togo attacks, but could have been rescued had the continent pulled together, supported the Togolese and delivered a wonderful footballing tournament.
And whilst the sport has been entertaining, African football has now lost so much face, this summers World Cup is going to be under intense scrutiny.
Should there be any incident of any sort, the reputation of the continent could be, in football terms, irreparably damaged.
It’s a tragic microcosm of the African story—a continent blessed with millions upon millions of amazing, talented people and the potential for their nations to be truly great players on a global scale, yet spoiled by greed, malice and apathy from the elites in power.