With the latest stunning news that Togo’s team bus was attacked by gunmen in Angola, we are all brought back down to earth, to a part of ourselves where sport cannot transcend the daily life that many of the people in the world are faced with. On the face of it, it is a brutal attack designed to inspire fear and hatred, to use the potentially uniting force of an international footballing tournament to instead destabilize a nation.
I am not and never will be an expert on Angolan politics, culture, or relationships, but I am, I think, correct in saying that nothing whatsoever justifies an attack on a peaceful, foreign outfit arriving to play football. They maybe rebels, they may be one-off actors of ill-will and they may have legitimate complaints towards regional, national, or international governing bodies and governments, but never is it acceptable to gun down innocent people whose only crimes were being famous and in the wrong place.
The region is fiercely militarized, as evidenced by continual clashes across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo from an autonomy movement, and frankly I would not be surprised if many of the nations set to play–not only in that area, but in the tournament as whole–pull out citing safety concerns. There is immense pressure from domestic clubs to return their stars healthy and, of course, alive. I would find it pretty insane if Togo did end up playing and not releasing anyone that felt they should return home (which should be everyone, you would think). The Telegraph has an article on that.
Everyone involved in Barcelona Football Blog hopes for the safe return of the players and for a cessation of the violence that has torn apart what should have been a festive atmosphere. We extend our sincere condolences to the families of those murdered and wounded by this attack. The people of Angola and DR Congo are the ones who face this violence head on every day and their plight should not be lost among the names of the great footballers currently in their midst. May everyone be safe in Angola throughout this tournament and beyond it.
Update: It is clear that the choice of Cabinda as a location for matches was a terrible one because of the history of violence there as well as the autonomy/rebellion movement that is going on there. It is an active military campaign, though Angola claims to have put that rebel movement down sufficiently to declare it no longer a force. Check this post from Pitch Invasion for more information.