The Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor yesterday said his teammates wanted to play in the African Cup of Nations, but ultimately decided to follow the instructions of their government. A number of players had been quoted in the French media saying they were keen to play on as a mark of respect to those killed and injured in Friday's gun attack in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda.
But the Togo prime minister, Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, ordered that the team must return home, and they were expected to be collected by the plane of Togo president Faure Gnassingbe last night. "The head of state [Gnassingbe] has decided we will return," Adebayor told French radio station RMC. "There was a meeting between players and we said we were still footballers. We all decided to do something good for the country and play to honour those who died.
"Unfortunately, the head of state and the country's authorities have decided otherwise. We will pack up and go home." Adebayor's comments came after Houngbo announced the government's decision earlier yesterday. The Togolese prime minister told French newspaper L'Equipe: "We understand the approach of players who wanted to express a way to avenge their fallen comrades, but it would be irresponsible on the part of the authorities to let them continue.
"The team must return today. The government's decision is unchanged. "It is a conscious decision since Friday. If a team or a person presents themselves under the banner of Togo, it would be a false representation." Adebayor revealed a conversation he held with Gnassingbe yesterday morning had proved decisive. That's what made the difference," he said. "It was also our families and loved ones at home who called us. They told us we could continue if we wished but that it is the authorities who have the information. Is there going to be another attack? Nobody knows. If they asked us back home, maybe they received a call saying that the threat has not passed.
"We are obliged to respect that. The head of state knows what is good for our careers and our lives." * With agencies