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Jan 30, 2010

Togo handed two-tournament Nations Cup suspension

Togo have been banned from the next two editions of the African Nations Cup because of "governmental interference" in their decision to pull out of the 2010 tournament after the machine-gun attack on the team bus.

The African Football Confederation (CAF) were unhappy that Togolese prime minister Gilbert Huongbo ordered his team to return from Angola, following the attack on their bus by a separatist movement in Cabinda that left two members of the delegation dead.

After initially pulling out of the competition, the Togo players then decided to play before being ordered back to the country by Huongbo. They were then disqualified by CAF for not turning up to their opening match against Ghana.

CAF president Issa Hayatou told AFP the decision to suspend the country from the 2012 and 2014 competitions was based on "governmental interference", while CAF's chief press officer Suleiman Habuba said the decision was based on article 78 of CAF regulations.

This states: "A forfeit notified less than 20 days before the start or during the final competition shall entail in addition of the forfeit of the entry fee, a maximum fine stipulated by the regulations as well as the suspension of the concerned national association for the following two editions of the African Cup of Nations."

"The players publicly expressed their willingness to return to the Nations Cup to compete. But the Togo government decided to call back their national team," CAF said in a statement. "The decision by political authorities contravenes CAF and African Nations Cup regulations. The executive committee therefore has banned Togo from the next two African Nations Cup and fined the Togo FA 50,000 U.S. dollars.

"The executive committee and CAF repeat their profound sympathy to the families of the victims of the tragic attack. CAF has condemned the attack and denounced the act of terrorism."

In Lome, Togolese sports minister Christophe Tchao revealed Togo would appeal against the ban. "We shall launch an appeal. We will use all legal means to enforce our rights regarding their decision," Tchao said.

The families of the assistant coach and the press officer were taking legal action against the CAF and the Angolan state, their lawyer said.

"We are taking legal action because our compatriots were killed because of the mistakes of the Confederation of African Football (and) its president Mr Issa Hayatou," lawyer Alexis Aquereburu told Reuters Television. "(The legal claim is) also against the Angolan state for putting in danger the life of our compatriots by organising this African Nations Cup in a war zone."

The armed wing of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), embroiled in a decades-long separatist struggle, claimed responsibility for the attack.

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