January 11th, 2010
11:52 AM ET

Togo tragedy should not increase World Cup worries

The tragic events of Friday, which saw at least two people killed and seven of the Togo national soccer party injured from a machine-gun attack en route to the Africa Cup of Nations, has shocked the world of football.

Angola are keen to prove they can have a secure tournament going forward.
Angola are keen to prove they can have a secure tournament going forward.

Angola is a nation that has suffered its fair share of grief in recent times - the southern African state only emerged from a bloody three-decade long civil war when a peace deal was signed with Cabinda separatists in 2002 - and the hosting of the Nations Cup was symbolic of a united nation looking to the future; the fact that two of those traveling to celebrate this fact lost their lives is both sad and regrettable.

It is a shame too, because in a year when the spotlight is shining on African football like never before, the event has reaffirmed anxieties held by many that a continent often associated with tragedy in recent times will be unable to safely host a World Cup.

The knee-jerk reaction is understandable - it is all too easy to associate loss of life with "soccer safety" in Africa. In 1993, 18 of the Zambian national side were killed in a plane crash as they flew to play Senegal in a World Cup qualifying fixture. Tragedy struck again in 2007 when a helicopter carrying 20 of the Togo delegation, including sport minster Richard Attipoe, crashed traveling back from a Nations Cup qualifier against Sierra Leone, killing all on board.

Poor crowd control has also proved catastrophic. In 2001, 126 spectators of a league derby game died at the Accra Sports Stadium in Ghana, a disaster that was followed in the same year by 43 lives being lost at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium, where overcrowding led to a stampede between fans of arch-rival sides Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. Even as recently as 2009, 22 people died in a crush at the Houphouet-Boigny arena in the Ivory Coast, as Didier Drogba's men beat Malawi 5-0 in a World Cup qualifier.

However, despite the recent shooting in Cabinda adding to this lamentable list of calamities, calls by critics that the Nations Cup should be called off and furthermore that the World Cup now faces a greater security threat are misguided.

There have been many sporting events prior to the 2010 Nations Cup that have been blighted by adversity but not one has been aborted as a result.

Two people were killed in 1996 when a bomb exploded in Atlanta for example, but the American city went on to host the Olympic Games dubbed "The Celebration of the Century" in some style. Before this, nine Israeli athletes were kidnapped from the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany and subsequently killed by a terrorist group but the tournament of 1972 was not derailed.

More recently, in the 2007 Asian Cup, a suicide bomber killed around 50 fans in Baghdad who were celebrating Iraq's national soccer team's progress to the final. After much soul-searching the team decided to carry on, a choice that led to a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia and the capture of the title.

These events were not important because of their display of machismo or do-or-die bravery, but because the ethos and vision of the occasion did not succumb to the will of those who wanted to disrupt it with devastation.

The Angolan government have said they will reinforce security plans and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are adamant the show must continue. Is it fair to ask the Nations Cup, an event that has reportedly seen $1 billion of resources poured into infrastructure construction in Angola, to be called off in a way previous tournaments have not?

If reports are to be believed, the Togo side themselves, led by captain Emmanuel Adebayor, wanted to continue to play before being flown out by their government.

As far as the World Cup is concerned, Danny Jordaan, the Chief Executive Officer for the 2010 World Cup Local Organizing Committee, has been defiant in his statements since the attack:

"I think the world understands that every country has its own military, police, intelligence resources and takes full responsibility for security within its own boundaries because they are separate and sovereign states," he said.

"We have just seen the attempted terror attacks on the United States. Unfortunately, it's a reality all over the world. Britain has its fair share of terror attacks, so does Spain and many countries. Clearly it's a global issue and we must understand it in that way. Of course, we cannot allow terrorists to win."

In other words, linking the attack in Angola to South Africa's security capability would be like canceling the 2006 World Cup in Germany because of the Madrid bombings in Spain. The two areas and events are clearly very different prospects. The "Rainbow Nation" has the same challenge facing it as any host of world football's biggest carnival, but with the resources of FIFA and the South African government fully behind the event, there is nothing to suggest those involved will be at any more risk than at the 2006 edition in Germany.

A belief that has prompted FIFA president Sepp Blatter to state to CAF president Issa Hayatou: "I have confidence in Africa and on the strength of this confidence we will together organize the flagship competition of world football in 2010."

Both CAF and FIFA have good reason to talk up the strength of their resolve and the need for confidence to remain in both tournaments, but agenda issues aside, is it ever right for the will of the terrorist disruptor to prevail at sporting events?

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soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Maake

    As a South African I am saddened by the supposed Afro-pessimism from the wes regarding the safety of the soccer world cup following the Angola shooting. Like Danny Jordan said events in Angola cannot and will not influence what happens in South Africa as these are two different countries which are thousands of miles apart. I say to the world come and see for yourself what South Africa has to offer then makeup your minds, but the 2010 FIFA world cup will kick off on 11 June 2010 at Soccer City Johannesburg as planned.

    January 11, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  2. Ian Webster

    Dear Mr. Wyatt,

    Did you seriously not mention South Africa, the host country of the World Cup, until the last third of your article? "In other words, linking the attack in Angola to South Africa's security capability would be like canceling the 2006 World Cup in Germany because of the Madrid bombings in Spain." Except that unlike the EU, African countries don't have open borders, so it is somewhat ridiculous to tie events in Angola to what might happen in S.A.. Angola's situation is significantly more perilous than that of South Africa. The idea that Africa is a single entity is a world-wide misconception that this article does nothing to correct.

    Regards, Ian Webster

    January 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Reply
  3. Henrique

    With this kind of prejudice, Fifa might as well cancel the 2010 World Cup competition on the basis of a terrorist attack on the moon!

    January 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  4. Johann

    Henrique is day-dreaming!

    January 11, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Reply
  5. Eliazer

    I am disappointed it happened to people who got nothing to do with whatever those rebels want, what does a football team has to do with political situation in congo/angola or whatever? Only cowards commit crimes of that nature.again there are stereotypes now tying the FIFA cup w/ AFCON, two different games in completely two different countries,just because its in Africa,somebody is digging for every reason to boycott it.This time Africa says no to those whose aims are keep us behind!

    January 11, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Reply
  6. Mzansi eKasi

    Spot on Henrique! It appears that there are different rules of engagement depending on which side of the globe you are. Please give Africa a break!

    January 11, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Reply
  7. Deanovitch

    This CNN Article is approved by Angola, lol, what an add, no, no more crazy peeps going to shoot at you, really! honest!, i was scared this was going to happen.

    January 11, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  8. Filipe

    South African football body needs to come forward and publicize their security measures and plans for the world cup to regain the football world's confidence in the tournament.

    The world does not want to hear or see another Cabinda-like tradgedy.

    January 11, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  9. julian

    it wiillll 3 magor good players that got killed

    January 11, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Reply
  10. okissman

    It sound so sad that something like that happen, expecially a players died not injured well i shocked.

    January 12, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Reply
  11. Celina

    As an Angolan who lives in the U.S. I dont condone the actions of those who carried out the attack on the Togolese team. This does not mean that terrorism attacks are exclusive to Africa and African nations. Angola is rebuilding itself as a nation after a long civil war and it will grow and succeed. I blame the media for helping in creating the hype of and making it seem as if Angola is not a safe country. Why the Togolese team decided to train in Congo I don't know, because that country is also going thru a civil war. There is no safe or perfect country in today's world, acts off terror are more common today and the distinations for these acts are not exclusive to any particular region.

    January 12, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  12. Justo

    The english media is just Jealousy of South Africa. Since this World Cup has been given to South Africa, they have been saying all sorts of things. They started about raizing issues of crime, then it was stadiums not to be ready in time. Now the angola shooting is being pushed to South Africa. The question that i have to the British is, what have we done to you that you hate us so much? They wish this World Cup was being organised by them. Come on, you can host every thing. You have the 2012.

    This hatred started when South Africa came second in the 2006 world cup bidding, beating the likes of England and only loosing to Germany contravercially by one vote. Thats where every thing started.

    January 13, 2010 at 4:07 am | Reply
  13. fiesty

    Lesson of the day.

    SOUTH AFRICA is a country on it's own. It is a Republic, has it's own president and is miles from the country of Angola. "BUY A MAP"

    Africa is a continent & is comprised of many different countries including South Africa which is an independent country situated on the Southern tip of the African continent.

    Moral of the story...
    The world cup 2010 is a South African hosted World cup held in the country South Africa which is situated on the continent of Africa.

    NOW go and educate yourself on other countries other then your own & STOP judging & comparing when you know NOTHING. Angola has nothing to do with South Africa!!!

    Oh, And again. BUY A MAP!

    January 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  14. Marinela- CAN fan

    Honnestly have you ever watch CNN and company, all they know is to spot negativity about developing countries including Africa, ANGOLA is growing, no matter what, live us alone and get a life. The CAN is a fact with or without FLEC, the world cup will be a fact. Any remarks on the attac to the israilies in German olimpic games, any remarks on the games in Los angels, please live us alone. Longe live Angola, Long live the CAN, in God we trust.

    January 13, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  15. Patrick


    It is not that the english media/countries are jealous of South Africa, it is that people who will be visiting South Africa may not know much about the country itself. Since the worlds largest sporting event will be taking place there, the media will of course be reporting on the issues of the country as there will be a major uptick in interest of news related to South Africa such as crime, political issues, etcetera. Also, travelers from english countries and other countries should be aware of any and all issues in the country to which they are traveling, it's common sense, isn't it?

    January 13, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  16. alex

    South America shows its support to South Africa. We have always respected the good football played by many african nations, and know that South Africa will be a great host to the World Cup 2010. The fact that others are trying to show Africa in a bad light is not new.... it is easier to point your finger at others after all. Look forward to a beautiful display of sportsmanship and class from one of the oldest civilized regions of the world... after all, europe was a stain on the ground while nations bloomed in Africa.

    January 13, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Reply
  17. Alvaro

    I'm originally from Angola, now a US citizen. Let me tell you that Angola has come a long way. Let's not forget that Angola and South Africa fought in the Angolan Civil War. Why is that important? it's to emphasize the fact that the war was devastating, it was a multinational conflict not just a civil war, so even after the 2002 peace agreement, there are still folks around with war mentality. They should be vigorously condemned and persecuted. In other countries, the same attack would have been labeled a terrorist attack. They simply took advantage of this event to bring world attention to them. Unfortunately by killing athletes.

    South Africa is a very different country, although crime is on the rise, I believe world cup tourists may face some problems in the streets of South Africa but attacks like the one that occurred in Angola is less likely to happen.

    I command South Africa to rise against the challenge, prove to the world that an African country is capable of hosting a world event of this magnitude.

    January 13, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Reply
  18. Victoria F.

    (My dad told me to write this)

    The World Cup will begin on Friday June 11th and in Soccer City Stadium Mexico is going to beat South Africa 2-1.

    ( i don't agree!!!! Mexico always loses when it really matters. South Africa will probably win 1-0.)

    January 14, 2010 at 1:46 am | Reply
  19. Julius

    Just suprised the Australian media have not yet jumped on to the bandwagon.They never write anything positive about RSA.If anything,they are worse than the Brits.The Yanks are a lot better this days.

    Anyway,we are used to this negativity.We will soldier on regardless.The FIFA World Cup will be hosted by SA.Deal with it and get a life.As for the Brits,lets wait for 2012 and see if alQaeda will leave you in peace.

    January 14, 2010 at 6:51 am | Reply
  20. Deanovitch

    You uneducated South africans, just because Angola is far away from SA, doesn't mean that SA doesn't have their own millitant AK crazed fools wanting to make thier won little state. Another thing, you want us to come to your country, but you insult us and call us stupid, i wish the FIFA 2010 was held somewhere besides Africa, anywhere, would be safer.

    January 14, 2010 at 9:20 am | Reply
  21. Nuno

    Cabinda is a small butt the most richest portion of Angola, and it was given to the Portuguese by the Congolese on the XV Century, as Macau was given also by the Chinese. This is a delicate Diplomatic Issue that is all about oil&gas.

    January 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  22. Capetown boy

    Well reading all your comments, its seems that most people not living in South Africa knows alot whats going on in our country. I live in Cape Town and I dont even realy know whats happing in Johannesburg. Shoo, you guys are truely something.
    On a serious note, we all no its just a matter of time before the world cup kicks off and then we all shall have to wait and see what realy will happen. For now, you guys can go on and be bias toward South Africa...

    Would love to see your faces when the world cup ends with no issues.

    January 15, 2010 at 9:31 am | Reply
  23. Makev

    Its ignorance by idiots like these (Deanovitch) that creates all the panic around the world cup being hosted by our beautiful country..i will not trade this country for any place on earth, despite all the reports about crime (and yes it is a problem as it is evrerywhere else)..i've never been attacked,robbed or harmed in any way for the 30 years i've been around.nor have we experienced any earthqaukes,hurricanes,volcano's,tsunami's ,terror attacks of any sorts on our shores. So go to hell Deanovitch the world cup is being host here whether you like it or not,and it will be the best and safest ever..we dont need fools like you to visit our lovely sunny (no snow in winter) country!!

    January 15, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  24. Nicole

    Jesus Christ for Africa and, Africa for Jesus Christ. Lord, protect and save us all for your glory alone!

    January 15, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  25. alehandro

    It's funny that so many of you are so uppity about this article when the author says "Linking the attack in Angola to South Africa's security capability would be like canceling the 2006 World Cup in Germany because of the Madrid bombings in Spain. The two areas and events are clearly very different prospects.".......Maybe you should READ the blog before you jump in with a knee-jerk reaction...That being said, it's obvious that people are going to question the security in South Africa in light of the attack in Angola. Unlike a World Cup held in Europe or South America, which is claimed by the host country alone, this is being trumpeted as "Africa's World Cup". i.e belonging to the whole continent. So it's natural, though obviously not logical, to consider the continent as a unit. South Africans are happy enough with that when the vibe is positive, so they shouldn't seek detach themselves from the continent when the vibe is negative. Instead they should ride out the bad press; produce a sensational trouble-free World Cup; and then smugly say "I told you so."...That's what I hope happens anyway and I'm one of those jingositic Brits!.

    January 15, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  26. Mark

    that was the dumbest thing that i ever heard in my enitre life!!

    January 15, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Reply
  27. gaspar mateus

    Forget about is

    January 15, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  28. gaspar mateus

    This is Angola....

    January 15, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  29. Johann

    ....and this is South Africa belonging to the African continent, one of five continents on Mother Earth! Every single soul on this planet should be concerned about the well-being of all human LIFE!!

    January 15, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Reply
  30. Deanovitch

    My dear friends, I have no doubt in the fact the the World cup will take place in SA, and i am sure that their security will do their very very best to try to make everything perfect. I was merely bashing CNN for capitalism. Nothing against SA, hell, ime sure its a wondefull country, but that still doesn't mean it will be safe. If there was a terrorist attack in my country, the Czech Republic, i would be worried, i guess, you people do not fear for others lives though, so, situation solved.

    January 16, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  31. Owolawi Deji

    This thing should not be limit to Africa alone. There is no country in the world that is totally save.

    January 18, 2010 at 9:04 am | Reply
  32. Johann

    Ignorance is still bliss!

    January 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  33. Ben

    I feel for the lost ones as Angolan there is no words, i am deeply sorry to all togo people, questions are also being asked about why Togo chose to drive though a notoriously dangerous part of the province, a known location for insurgents, instead of flying to Cabinda city directly, according to the Confederation of African Football regulations. why did Togo gorvement sent Airplane to bring them back to Togo and did not give them a plane to go to Angola? why all 15 countrys landed peaceful and Togo not? Does media know the Politic tentions betwee both countrys? please say some posetive about angola. good luck on london olypiques.

    January 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  34. Joffre

    I love the W Cup. Goooo Brazil

    January 18, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  35. Blah

    It is said to see the prominent soccer tournament be stained with such terrible blood.

    January 19, 2010 at 5:00 am | Reply
  36. Johann

    In reply to what Ben mentioned – the plane flying to Cabinda city could have been hijacked, blown up with everybody on board killed... who knows anymore? Anything is possible at any time – AFRICA TIME!

    January 20, 2010 at 5:53 am | Reply
  37. Nigel

    There are factors as to why people link South Africa with Angola.First everyone in all of Africa would agree that the WC is for Africa .That is why Europeans link the two countries .Fairly or unfairly. No major world event besides the Rugby WC has been staged in black Africa.Would you believe some people do not even KnoW that Egypt is in Africa .Because Europeans try to take credit for the cradle of CIVILIZATION. Anyway there is the ignorance that Europeans still see
    ALL Africans as being poor .You should South Africans homes with cars and estates entrance gates made from gold . Some of the best jewellery is from South Africa .People should do some recsearch and not rely on biased journalism . Africa did always need missionaries to help them we were the ones worshipped!!!. I like the Orange team but I love my Ancesrty much more that cannot be bought for no price .

    I love all nations to have Peace and Love because THE ALMIGHTY is LOVE .Rastafari way!!

    January 25, 2010 at 1:32 am | Reply
  38. Johann

    ...and freedom of speech reigns all Africa!

    January 25, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Reply
  39. Quentin

    The crime will make it a world cup not to forget and the last one ever in Africa ... South africa good luck and hope it will not be that bad ..

    January 26, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Reply
  40. Quentin

    For… Owolawi Deji ,yes you said it but some countries have 20 times more crime and armed robbery , murder . and some countries are not number 1 on the most crime list there south africa win.. name me one country in europe that is close to SA well there is none.

    January 26, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  41. Ben

    Johann, how are u today i just want ro reply on what u said.. look never in Angola history that Airplane had been hijacked never ever..i can garant u that is very safe to fly to Cabinda..peace and love

    February 2, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Reply
  42. audz

    The Togo crisis has catapulted many issues to the fore front. Weather people like it or not the incident with Togo and security issues in Angola are now a PR nightmare for South Africa, despite the South Africans gallant efforts to distance themselves from the Cabinda incident all the negative aspects have been brought up, high crime rate, high murder rate because many people think Africa is one big country not a continent so we are al the same! On the other hand it also feels it is some kind of sabotage but all I can say is go on South Africa show em!!!!!!

    February 6, 2010 at 12:52 am | Reply
  43. Joe

    South Africa, by our own actions always seems to get a bad rep overseas (much to our own blame, and the crazies that scour the net). But I feel sorry for all those that may have travelled to a World Cup anywhere else in the world, but not one in Africa. They are going to miss out on the wonder that will be the SA world Cup, the amazing people and scenery.
    Miss it and you will be poorer for it.

    February 26, 2010 at 11:39 am | Reply
  44. Johann

    Job creation in South Africa is alive and well and on the increase everyday – every second person one sees is in uniform and in some way connected to a kind of a security position and crime should one these days something of the past, but apparently these uniformed guys are in many cases brothers in crime!

    February 27, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  45. Mac

    The world Cup campaign in SA started off as a disaster and will remain that way. I live here and watch it daily.

    March 3, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Reply
  46. Richard

    Taking the tournament from Africa at this point would be like detracting a vote of confidence from the future of the nation. Safety is important, but living in fear is something entirely different. Hold the Cup, give Africa a vote of confidence, and hope for the best.

    March 4, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Reply


    March 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Reply
  48. Proudly South African

    To all you pessimists and doom sayers, South Africa is hosting the 2010 World cup, deal with it! How can you write about a country that you haven't even visited? Could you be objective then?
    Many tourists will be pleasantly surprised when they get to SA. You will want to come back, that I can guarantee. No country is perfect, neither is SA. Let's just enjoy the World Cup and stop passing judgement. Oh yes, and if you haven't got anything positive to say about SA, do us all a favour and stay home!

    March 19, 2010 at 9:59 am | Reply

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