A Call for Peace

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.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. Tyler
    January 8, 2010

    This is a truly horrible event that no one should ever have to deal with. My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire team, and to the family of the driver who lost his life. When you hear things like this it really puts life into perspective. Let us all hope that the violence can cease and that these murderers are brought to justice.

  2. Blow-Granite
    January 8, 2010

    It is sad to be living in such times that in some countries there is an abundance and peace, and, in others, there is so much hunger, poverty and violence. I would like the organizers to stand in defiance to the attackers and let the sport unite all those in grief. It would be a shame if Togo withdrew from the tournament as that would accomplish what the attackers wanted to do. They should play the tournament and that would defeat the purpose of the attack. One World, One Game – Football.

  3. Jnice
    January 9, 2010

    Video right after it happened. Players are obv shaken up:


    • January 9, 2010

      That’s some pretty serious video. I was witness to a bombing once and I have to say, their reactions are surprisingly calm. Most people in those situations tend to go for the anger side of things, not the crying/shocked thing (for the record, I was in the shock category). These things, they happen, and you’re never the same afterward and if those players want to go home and not be around soccer for a while, they should do that. And their respective club teams should continue to pay them their salaries because, until you’ve been in something like that, some act of violence that is senseless and horrible, you have no idea how you’ll react. And you have no idea how you’ll react the next time either.

      So far, everyone has been respectful of the victims and their situation, but I hope that the Togolese Football Federation will cover the hospital care of those injured and all of the funeral expenses of the driver who died (and anyone who dies of their injuries) and I hope that everyone will continue to understand how these situations affect people forever. Adebayor may never recover or he may become stronger or he may stay exactly the same. Whatever happens, as long as we recognize that these are human beings who have human emotions and reactions, we’ll be okay.

  4. inNYC
    January 9, 2010

    I can see your point, Blow-Granite, but I can also see an argument that the tournament should be suspended immediately. It seems that this situation was very avoidable. Some people bear responsibility for that, beyond the attackers themselves. I don’t know if it makes sense to “get on with it.”

  5. eklavya
    January 9, 2010

    On a positive not, the banner is finally up! With six stars too!

  6. Citizen
    January 9, 2010

    The whole idea that Angola is fit to host a sporting event is beyond ridiculous. Security concerns for foreigners aside, by allowing a major sporting event to be held there FIFA and CAF are basically endorsing the idea that the government is in control and Angola is back in order. This is so far on from the truth that it would laughable if not for the gravity of the situation. Sure, “civil war” officially “ended” in 2002, but that just means that violence can now be directed toward the citizenry for extortive or sexual or whatever purpose without any ideological justification whatsoever. If anything, there is LESS order and MORE brutality in Angola now than there was 10 years ago, and the lives of normal Angolans are even worse off.

    In other “sport-overcomes-all-violence miracle” related BS, the idea that Ivory Coast’s 2006 World Cup qualification led to ceasefire and reconciliation between the two warring sides in the domestic civil war is completely untrue. The ceasefire occurred in 2005 long before CI secured qualification. When the international media crassly repeats fallacious information like this, it merely encourages sporting bodies to make ill-fated decisions like the one to hold the ACN in Angola. The CAF’s decision would be inexcusable if it had misjudged the level of security and order in Angola to be sufficient for a major international event like the ACN (read any international academic or political or business or whatever report or ask any relatively impartial expert on Angola and you would get the same answer – this is no exaggeration). It would be downright criminal if the CAF made the leap of faith that a sporting event would united the divided nation and the violence would magically disappear.

  7. Citizen
    January 9, 2010

    Also, as an addendum to my above post (sorry for the long length), people like Hull boss Phil Brown who want the World Cup in South Africa to be reconsidered are guilty of ignorance or, worse, racism. They are, subconsciously or not, subscribing and reinforcing the terrible miscategorization of “Africa” as a whole entity the “Africa is a country” or “the Dark Continent” type of neocolonialist ridiculousness. If there had been a large drug-related violent incident in Mexico the week before the 1994 World Cup, would anybody have suggested that the US was not safe enough to host? Funnily enough, these “Dark Continent” types are the same people who often argue for nativistic restrictions on player movement within Europe.

    Anyway, sorry if these posts are considered too politically oriented, but the problem is that many people seem to see sport as something not bound by the rules that govern the real world…

    • Bill
      January 9, 2010

      Your piece is very insightful and well thought out. Thank you for your opinion

  8. Jose62
    January 9, 2010

    It’s a tragedy… And from what I’ve come to understand from the reports, the CAF should never have approved games in Cabinda (the exclave where the shooting took place).

  9. Helge
    January 9, 2010

    Nothing whatsoever justifies such an attack. Full Stop.

    I don’t know HOW you could organize 6 (or 7?) matches to take place in an exclave where there has been a civil war until 2006. And from what I’ve read, the civil war might be ended officially (according to the government of Angola), but fights are still going on on a quite regular basis. That is irresponsible from the CAF.
    The most ridiculous part about it is the now upcoming accusation of the CAF towards to the Togolese football association, which is that they were told to travel by plane only… the CAF and possibly also the Angolan football association are responsible for this decision and they put up with the risk. It was not predictable that such an attack would happen, but somehow it feels like they tempted fate…

  10. Lumi
    January 9, 2010

    A similar case almost arose in Nigeria before the under 17 WorldCup where the students Here threatened the Govt of violence if the University lecturers strikes were not taken seriously. And the Govt quickly moved to meet with the various unions to solve the issue. Likewise i would say the Govt of Angola should either meet with those militant groups to calm down or CAF should move the tournament elsewhere or postpone it entirely to next January

  11. eklavya
    January 9, 2010

    Togo have pulled out of the cup, as was expected. However, there is word that an assistant coach and a press officer have passed away too.


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