AFCON 2010 held in Angola will remain tournament the Togo football fans will never forget for the rest of their lives. The tournament was hosted by Angola and it was won by Egypt who defected Ghana in the finals. Nigeria beat Algeria to claim the third position. For Egypt is a year to remember for good but for the Togolese side is a year they will forever prayed it never came.
Togo was drawn in Group B alongside neighboring countries Ghana, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. They were back to the tournament after missing out in the 2008 tournament. They later never get to play in the AFCON 2010 tournament due to an evil attack on the team which cost the lives of some of their colleagues.
Togo’s pre-tournament camp was set for Pointe Noir in the Republic of Congo. A city which is 100km from where their group games were to be played, in the Angolan city of Cabinda. Cabinda is separated from the rest of Angola, and people rather fly over their destination to the capital Luanda and then fly back north again. Togo chose to drive which was a decision that comes with fatal consequences.
The area has been marked as dangerous route for travelers before that time. But may be the team felt since Angola is hosting the AFCON 2010 tournament, measures might have been put to secure the whole area.
Everything was going well in the bus. There was a carefree atmosphere on the bus, with players laughing and joking amongst themselves. Which is expected from a group of talented young men, preparing for one of the high points of their careers.
At the border they were joined by Angolan security forces, who were to escort them through the forest. The area was occupied by groups of people who claim they are independence from Angola – to Cabinda city. The squad didn’t pay much attention to their arrival. Soon they would be fighting for the lives of everyone on the Togo team bus.
AFCON 2010 Attack on Togo How it Started.
They were all enjoying ride but, just after they had crossed the border while some of the players were busy listening to music. Then they had a gunshot from the forest after about 15 minutes of driving. They did not really take it too serious and even made a joke about it. Then not long from that time the gunshot was followed by intense shooting.
The small convoy moved off from the border, and onto the road through the forest. Then they started shooting at the players’ bus, the players took cover for safety. One player who remembered the incident started was goal keeper Kodjovi Obilale. He said his life was transformed in just a few seconds, as he realized that he had been shot.
“I heard the sound of a machine gun,” he says, “and at the very moment I wanted to move to hide, it was as if I was nailed to the seat. “That is when I saw myself both my belly and my back were bleeding. That’s when I began to panic. I said: ‘I’ve been hit, help me, help me, I want to see my daughter, my son. I don’t want to die here.'”
He and the assistant coach Amelete Abalo who was also hit never made it. The 54-year-old assistant coach was calling out that he was shot but at the end he did not survive the attack. Obilale also said before his death that he could remember one team team-mate who had military training calling for a weapon to fight back.
The team weren’t able to escape from the shooting because the bus driver (Mario Adjoua) had also been grievously wounded by the attack. The convoy was forced to halt, and a vicious firefight broke out between the attackers and the security forces. Memories of how long it lasted vary, but everyone agrees it was at least 30 minutes.
Looking back 10 years, midfielder Junior Senaya recalls that journey, and the moment everything changed. Junior Senaya, a player who had helped Togo to their first World Cup in Germany in 2006 quitted football after that incident. He is was only 25 when it happened, but his football career effectively ended that day.
“It was psychologically catastrophic, it turned upside down,” he says now. “I really could not recover after the AFCON 2010 attack. I found no reason at all to play football at my club because psychologically I was shocked.” The team pulled out of the tournament and was penalized by CAF. They were banned for two years from participating in the AFCON tournament.
But is ten years today still nobody is brought to justice about the AFCON 2010 attack on the Togolese national team. Questions are was CAF right to have punished Togo national considering what has happened? Or was Togo supposed to bear their lost and played the tournament? All this questions are left unanswered. But today 8 January remains a day the African football lovers will remember of the brutal attack of the Togolese national team