The African Nations Cup, the bi-annual tournament, taking place in Angola this year was supposed to open the celebration of football on the continent. Though not related, it was regarded as a wonderful prelude to the World Cup in South Africa, coming up later in the year. However, as many readers likely know, before a single ball was kicked, the tournament began in tragedy. As reported on ESPNSoccernet.com, on January 9th,
“Gunmen in an area plagued by separatist violence used machine guns to open fire Friday on a bus carrying Togo’s national soccer team to a tournament in this southwest African country, killing the driver and wounding at least nine people, including two players.”
Reports are still coming in, but it has now been confirmed that there have been at least 3 deaths. After initially wanting to carry on and play in the tournament, the Togo national team has pulled out and will be returning to Togo on Sunday via presidential plane.
This is an absolute tragedy for all of the players, families, players involved, and a blow to the footballing world. And in light of the upcoming World Cup, what was supposed to be a celebration leading up to the event has been transformed into a time of mourning. However, I do hope that the words, if not the attitude, spoken by Danny Jordaan of the World Cup organizing committee, are taken to heart by the global community. Jordaan, one of the leading advocates for the World Cup and South Africa has asked the world to make the distinction between Angola and South Africa rather than let the event cast a shadow over the entire continent. As reported on ESPN,
Jordaan offered his sympathies to Nations Cup hosts Angola, admitting the bus attack was a blow for the country but re-iterated his frustrations with the world “tainting” South Africa with the same brush.
“I feel very sorry for the Angolans because they have spent billions on fixing up their cities and building infrastructure for this tournament. This was going to be the event that would mark their transition from decades of war to a new social and economic order. In that context, it’s a blow.”
“The world must be balanced and must not apply different standards when it comes to the African continent. Our World Cup is secure and we are confident because we have employed a lot of resources to safeguard the event in our country.”
I generally agree with Jordaan and hope that the tragedy in Angola does not mar people’s perceptions of South Africa. I have to believe the games will be secure and safe. However, these events harshly remind us of the difficulties on the Continent as well as the rest of the World.
But I hope that the world, fans, sponsors, etc. take the attitude of Didier Drogba, the striker for the Ivory Coast, when he says:
“People have an opinion of Africa and it is not so good, but we have to let sport unite us all…They see us as being behind the rest of the world in financial and in sporting terms, but this year give us a chance to show people a different Africa. “Africa has some problems, we all know that, but we all have a chance to make 2010 the special year that puts this continent on the sporting map forever. We have this Africa Cup of Nations and then there is the big prize of the World Cup.”
Here here. The World Cup is Africa’s games, not just South Africa, and has the potential to elevate the Continent as a whole. I just hope that the opportunity isn’t lost, that the rest of the African Nation’s Cup brings joy, and the world’s game can be fully celebrated in Africa. May we all unite around the Togo national team.