LONDON — Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes calling off the African Cup of Nations would be a victory for terrorism, even though Togo is pulling out after an attack on the team bus.
Most of the biggest clubs in Europe, including Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal, have several stars playing in the 16-team competition in Angola, where gunmen opened fire on the Togo team bus on Friday, killing the assistant coach, a team spokesman and the Angolan bus driver and injuring several players.
Although the players said they wanted to play on to honor those who died, Togo’s prime minister called the team home on Sunday, one day before the competition is due to start.
Arsenal’s Alex Song is playing for Cameroon and Emmanuel Eboue is with the Ivory Coast but Wenger believes that calling the tournament off would reward the terrorists and might even threaten other competitions. This year’s World Cup will be held in South Africa in June.
“I do not believe you can just stop any competition at any incident, because that will reward people who provoke the incidents,” said Wenger. “That means any competition in the world will be stoppable at any time.
“The international federation has to make sure the security is good enough for the competition and maybe you have to leave it to some individual players that if they feel scared then there is the possibility they could move out of the competition. I personally feel that the competition has to go on.”
Although there is no link between the Angola terrorist attack and World Cup host South Africa, fans from Europe, Asia, North America and South America might reconsider making the long journey to see their teams play in football’s biggest tournament if there are more terrorist threats.
Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor has told French radio his team will return home from the Africa Cup of Nations following advice from their government.
Although the team initially wanted to leave the tournament after a gun attack on the team killed three people, they then said they would stay on in Angola.
But Togo Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo insisted the team leave the country for security reasons.
Tournament organisers have said the event will still go ahead as planned.
The attack on Togo’s convoy in the northern enclave of Cabinda killed an assistant coach, press officer and bus driver, and injured several other players.
Adebayor, who plays in the Premier League with Manchester City, had previously said the team thought that life should go on and they did not want to be seen as ruining the Nations Cup which begins on Sunday.
However, following further consultation with government officials, he accepted the authorities knew best.
He said: “This Friday at 1430, we were all dead on that bus. We sent our last messages to our families. We called our family to say our last words. I told myself: ‘If you’re still there on the ground in Angola, why not (play)?’
“The authorities decided we should return (home), so we will return.”
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