The recent decision to ban Togo for the next two African Cup of Nations tournaments is a disgrace. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) conjured up this decision based on the breaking of rule 78 in the CAF regulations which states:
“A forfeit notified less than 20 days before the start or during the final competition shall entail, in addition of the forfeit of the entry fee, a maximum fine stipulated by the regulations as well as the suspension of the concerned national association for the following two editions of the African Cup of Nations.”
To suggest that Togo did not give ample notice of their intent to withdraw from the tournament is one of the worst arguments this writer has ever seen. As if the team and FA knew that their bus was going to be ambushed and three people on that bus killed, including two team officials.
CAF has also suggested that there was government interference at play that pressured the team into withdrawing. Whether that is true or not who knows, all we do know is that the players could not be blamed for not wanting to play after this traumatic event. And their comments in the aftermath of what was a terrorist attack indicate that playing football was not something they were interested in.
Blame for this scandalous decision to ban Togo must lay squarely at the feet of CAF President Issa Hayatou. One can only hope that this decision is appealed and overturned. Only then will justice be served. Instead of CAF reaching out to the national team of Togo and its players, they are punishing Togolese football for no apparent reason. This is a classic case of pouring salt in the wound and wrongful retribution rather than good continental football governance.
It’s a shame that in the year of the first ever World Cup on African soil, a despicable event like this attack took place. But even more, it’s sad for African football that the powers that be have no conception of compassion, no insight into the pain of those players and officials from Togo, and no capacity to distinguish between right and wrong.