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Jan 9, 2010

Togo players unanimously decide to stay

The Togo national football side will play in the African Nations Cup in ''memory of the dead'', according to two of the players. It had been thought that Togo would pull out after the attack on their bus on Friday.

• Togo withdraw from tournament
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The players had initially said they did not want to play in the tournament, and the government recalled the team, following the machine gun ambush by Cabinda separatists that killed an assistant coach, squad spokesman and bus driver and left many others injured.

"In memory of the dead, the national team has decided to play in the African Nations Cup," Thomas Dossevi told AFP.

"We are all heartbroken, it is no longer a party, but we want to show our national colours, our values and that we are men. It was a decision taken nearly unanimously by the team which met during the night after having been reassured by the Angolan authorities."

He said the team is "a bit bitter, we are a little disappointed with the Confederation of African Football (CAF)...which couldn't arrange for a postponement of our first match so we could bury our dead."

Dossevi, who plays for French side Nantes, was scathing about CAF. "CAF puts its interests first and not those of the countries," he said. "They did not support us enough."

L'Equipe also quoted midfielder Alaixys Romao as saying the team had agreed to stay in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda for its first Group B match against Ghana on Monday.

"The decision was taken unanimously," said Romao, who plays for French club side Grenoble. "We have just had a meeting of the whole delegation and we will be on the pitch on Monday to face Ghana."

A Togolese minister said on Saturday that the government had decided to pull the team out of the tournament, which starts on Sunday, because of "this dramatic situation".

On Sunday, the country's Prime Minister, Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, insisted the players must return home by the end of the day, but it remains to be seen whether the players will agree.

There was further confusion over Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor, Togo's captain. The player's spokesman had said he would stay with his team, but the club's official website said he was returning home.

"People have died for the African Nations Cup, others have been injured. We can't let them down and leave like cowards," said Romao.

"If we stay here it's for them but also not to give any satisfaction to the rebels. Our government does not necessarily agree with us but we are all determined to play this competition."

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that reserve-team goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale, previously reported to have been killed, was in a "stable condition" in hospital in Johannesburg after being shot in the attack.

"He is conscious and in a stable condition," Milpark Clinic president Dr Richard Friedland said on the official website of his club, Pontivy. "He is suffering from two gunshot wounds in the lower back and abdomen."

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