LUANDA, January 31 – The Confederation of African Football (CAF) was in the eye of a storm on Sunday over its controversial decision to ban Togo from the next two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations.
CAF meted out the punishment outlawing Togo from competing in 2012 and 2014 after it claimed the team quit the 2010 competition due to "governmental interference".
Togo were summoned home by their national government after the attack by Cabinda separatists on their team convoy as it arrived in the restless northern enclave on January 8, two days before the start of the Nations Cup.
Communications chief Stanislas Ocloo and assistant coach Abalo Amnalete were killed and goalkeeper, Kodjovi Obilale, was among the injured, in the ambush that has cast a dark shadow over this edition of the continental championship.
Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor castigated CAF for "this outrageous decision".
And Togo’s French manager Hubert Velud also expressed his amazement at the suspension.
"I am curious to know if Sepp Blatter (FIFA president) and Michel Platini (UEFA president) will endorse this decision.
"If they let this go, it is the gateway to completely dysfunctional football. I officially launched an appeal to international bodies to see their reaction."
Adebayor, in an interview with French sports daily l’Equipe, called for CAF president Issa Hayatou to stand down after "completely betraying" the Togo squad.
The Manchester City striker said: "Mr Hayatou has served Africa extensively, but now he must leave."
The 25-year-old added: "They do not care about the voice of the world.
"It was our head of state (Faure Gnassingbe) who sent us to the African Cup of Nations to defend the colours of our country.
"He said the threat surrounding our squad had not gone and told us to return to our country. We are only ambassadors. We were obliged to return, and there was nothing we could do."
On Saturday Cameroonian Hayatou explained the reasoning behind the ban.
In an interview with AFP he said: "I told the players that we understood their position.
"We asked them to remain, but that if they decided to leave we would take action. And the players told us they would remain. Up to that point we were in agreement.
"But when there was political interference we couldn’t accept that."
The ban has been met with widespread astonishment in Luanda and elsewhere.
One columnist writing for the BBC suggested that "not since Buckingham Palace took so long to respond to Princess Diana’s death in 1997 has an organisation (CAF) so badly misjudged the mood of the public."
One Ghanaian fan attending Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations’ final at Luanda’s 11 November stadium who declined to give his name said: "How can CAF justify this ban after what Togo went through? It’s like kicking a man when he’s down on the floor."
Togo midfielder Thomas Dossevi has urged the Togo Football Federation to lodge an appeal.