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African Nations Cup – The Show Must Go On

January 11, 2010

I don’t expect there are too many people who don’t know about the machine gun attack on a bus in Cabinda containing the players of the Togo football team on Friday. Three people died which was three too many, but there could’ve been so many more. The team wanted to continue in memory of those who had fallen, but the officials of Togo had insisted on pulling the team and sending them home. So it is that they’re now going back to Togo. In the meantime, the recriminations have started on how this team came to be travelling by bus rather than plane to their destination.

Arsene Wenger has always given me the impression of a football manager who thinks deeply in a world where thinking is not necessarily top of the list. The following statement in response to this event has reinforced that view for me:

“I don’t want to do that (recall players) because I believe it will be disrespectful to Africa and to the African Nations Cup. We cannot want always to encourage Africa to develop and if something happens then say lets all come back to Europe.”

You could say he’s looking after his interests and that may be true, but I believe that statement was also about not abandoning ship at the first sign of trouble. If you want anyone or anything to grow, you have to encourage them and stick with them through stormy moments. You stay on that ship. Although the Togo football team is no longer taking part, the African Nations Cup will go on, hopefully with beefed up security. It has to, if the deaths of those people are not to be in vain. You may also be interested in reading this article I just found on the ESPN soccernet site where Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba calls on Africa to unite through sport.

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