AFTER two days of confusion, Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor confirmed on French radio that the team was set to head home from the African Nations Cup yesterday afternoon following advice from the Togolese government.
There had been confusion over the squad’s intentions after several players were quoted as saying they would leave the tournament on Saturday before it emerged they had changed their minds as they looked to play on in honour of the three men killed when the team bus was attacked by rebels in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda on Friday.
However, Togolese Prime Minister Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo ordered the team to return on Sunday and by press time, the players had agreed to leave Angola.
Adebayor told French radio station RMC: “The head of state (Gnassingbe) has decided we will return. There was a meeting between players yesterday (Saturday) 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 come after Houngbo announced the government’s decision earlier yesterday.
The Togolese prime minister told 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 present themselves under the banner of Togo, it would be a false representation.”
Adebayor, who was not injured in the attack, said the conversation with Gnassingbe on Sunday 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 was not passed. We are obliged to respect that. The head of state knows what is good for our careers and our lives.”
He added: “The presidential plane will pick us up. He told me that the plane had left Lome. There are about two hours flying between Lome and Cabinda. We will leave in two or three hours.”
There had previously been suggestions that Ivory Coast and Ghana could join Togo in abandoning the tournament, and Adebayor admits there is a genuine danger for all their Group B rivals, who will play the majority of their matches in Cabinda.
“As captain and spokesman of Togo, I spoke with all authorities,” he said. “I told them to take the measures necessary for our security. I spoke with the captain and the Ivory Coast delegation and with Ghanaians.
“They expressed their support by saying they were ready to leave the competition if we did ... (but) at the end of the day, we realised that they were ready to continue. It is still a continent where a World Cup will take place in South Africa.
“If we speak of the dead, the competition should have been cancelled, but CAF (Confederation of African Football) have decided otherwise.
“We’re going back and we wish good luck to those who will remain, especially to Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana.
What I have told their leaders is that they may be attacked at any time in Cabinda. I hope they will be cautious.