Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I think a lot of players want to leave. I don’t think they want to be at this tournament any more because they have seen their death already. Most of the players want to go back to their family. No one can sleep after what they have seen today… We went through the border and got into Angola and, I don’t know, 5km away from the border we started hearing shooting on the bus, for no reason. At the end of the day we got a lot of (people) injured. One of our second goalkeepers got a bullet in his body. Our press and communications guy has got injured; he’s not even conscious now, we don’t know if he’s going to survive or not. These are the things we keep saying, keep repeating. In Africa we have to change our image if we want to be respected but unfortunately that’s not happening. We have a chance with one of the biggest tournaments in the world, the World Cup. Can you imagine what’s happening now? I’m disgraced and, I don’t know, it’s unfair… The thing we don’t understand is why they shot on our bus. That’s the question now. There’s no one who has got a reason for that. It’s not only one guy or two guys shooting one time or two times on our bus. If you can imagine, the silence on the bus was unbelievable. I don’t know whether I am the target or not but I know my team or my country is the target. Why, I don’t know.” – Emmanuel Adebayor.
Runner-up: “Our first priority is the safety of the players but the tournament will go ahead.” – Suleimanu Habubu, a spokesman for the organisers of the African Cup of Nations (“ACN”).
Today’s overview: Football has been thrusted from the backpages to worldwide headline news overnight as the Togolese national football team, including Manchester City forward Emmanuel Adebayor, were attack by machine gun fire en route to Angola to compete in the ACN. With no good news, the competition is now in grave danger of disruption, while doubts over Africa’s security ahead of the World Cup are now at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
The Guardian’s Dave Smith provides the facts, detailing “the team was travelling from a training camp in Congo-Brazzaville. Their bus had just entered the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, where separatists have waged a three-decade long war, when it came under heavy gunfire for several minutes.” attackers raked the bus with machinegun fire as it crossed into Cabinda, a disputed oil-rich Angolan territory within the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.”
For Kevin Eason, “there is bound to be unrest among players with other nations who will have witnessed news reports and now know they are in a country that could pose a serious risk. But even though the tournament will go on, Fifa will be forced to re-examine security arrangements this weekend, in spite of assurances that this was a one-off, caused because the Togo team chose to drive through Angola instead of flying.”
Unsurprisingly, Premier League clubs are calling for their players to be sent home after the violence. Jon Brodkin reported that “Portsmouth and Hull City last night called for their players to be brought home… It is understood Chelsea and Fulham would fully support any move by their players to return to England.” The Telegraph publish statements from all the Premier League clubs with players at the ACN to receive their reaction to the Togo attack.
Posing questions rather than pretending to have any answers, Amy Lawrence fears for how the ACN can continue now. “Getting over the trauma will be a major challenge for all the participants. The continent’s five World Cup finalists here in particular â€“ the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Algeria â€“ must somehow ensure they are not too badly derailed because a successful tournament was clearly part of their preparations for next summer in South Africa as well as their chance for continental triumph.” Also in danger of unfairly smearing the 2010 world cup, Ralph Ellis barked “the question will be asked: ‘If Angola can’t keep players safe from terrorists, can South Africa protect the world’s biggest stars in the summer?’ Security was already a major issue for those travelling to the World Cup, and not only for the players and coaches. Even journalists and TV men heading to cover the competition have been told they will have armed guards and 24-hour security.”
Diving in, Patrick Barclay is at pains to help South Africa fend off any world cup security fears following the Angola attack. “We must take care to react proportionately. The World Cup is to take place in South Africa, not a conflict zone separated from the rest of Angola by a strip of land belonging to the Demoratic Republic of Congo. There is no more reason to ratchet up the fear factor now than there would have been to abandon all European football after the terrible events at the Heysel Stadium in Belgium in 1985.”
Looking at the Togo attack on a wider scale, Ian Chadband delivers the sobering question “who knows what will happen next time? And there will be a next time, you can be sure. And maybe it will be the superstar who falls. A Sangakkara [referring to the attack on the Sri Lankaâ€™s cricketers in Pakistan last year] or an Adebayor. Terrorists are finding top sportsmen prime targets, perfect for minimum resistance and maximum global impact.”
While all other football news has a sense of the trivial when compared to the Togo bus attack, the papers do carry other stories this Saturday.
The big-freeze is one of the major stories, with the football fixture list ravaged by postponement due to the weather. Yet Tom Dart is struggling to understand why so many games are off. “The safety-first attitude of clubs in postponing matches, despite playable pitches, appears to be undermining the point of undersoil heating, but caution in the face of a cold snap is understandable.” Making a similar point, Crystal Palace boss Neil Warnock used his weekly column in the Independent to cough “in my playing days we just used to get an orange ball out of the store cupboard, sweep the snow off the lines, and get on with it.”
Manchester City’s capture of Patrick Vieira remains hot topic this weekend, Daniel Taylor pointing out “the question is whether Vieira is still equipped to take hold of a game and bend it to his will.” Ian Herbet also jumped on the bandwagon to ask “the overriding question is whether Vieira has the capability to exploit the weaknesses which he discerns in United. Michael Carrick, Anderson and Darren Gibson, the current standard bearers in Keane’s role, are certainly not what he was but that goes for Vieira, too.”
Des Kelly also laid out his doubts over Vieira. “On the pitch he is not so much last season, as positively retro. Now 33 and troubled by constant, niggling little injuries, he failed to impress Jose Mourinho… returning to the Premier League after four-and-a-half years, he will find the game passing him at a hectic pace.”
Fighting back to defend Vieira is Paul Merson. “Iâ€™m sure Patrick wonâ€™t play every single week but when he does play Iâ€™ve got no doubt that he will be a success. If you look at the Manchester City squad there arenâ€™t many players who have actually won anything. And thatâ€™s why Vieira will be so important â€“ because domestically he has won it all.”
In a show of unity between Sir Alex Ferguson and the Glazers, as witnessed by Tim Rich, the fiery Scot has denied his is constrained under a burden of debt at Old Trafford. “Ferguson today launched a forthright defence of the policies of the Manchester United owners, the Glazer family, and insisted that the club’s spiralling debt had no bearing on his refusal to enter the transfer market during the January window.” Ignoring Ferguson at his word, Terry Venables farts that the Glazers are refusing to back United with funds. “The only conclusions we can draw as to why he has not yet managed to secure these vital new acquisitions is that he has either not earmarked the right players – or the board are not backing the manager’s attempts to strengthen his squad… Ferguson does not appear to have the spending power he once had.”
Day nine of the transfer window, and today’s rumours are as follows.
Daniel Taylor splutters that Manchester City already have their next target in sight. “City have identified [Victor] Moses as a possible star of the future and hope to capitalise on [Crystal] Palace’s financial problems by agreeing terms to make the 19-year-old the seventh striker on the club’s books.”
The Times, in their window watch section, club together all of their tales including Sunderland insisting Kenwyne Jones is not for sale while the Black Cats target Guy Demel, the Hamburg and Ivory Coast right back, for about Â£5 million, West Ham are after Palermo keeper Rubinho, while Liverpool remain interested in Matthew Upson.
A faceless article in the Daily Mail prints “Fulham are considering a move for Panathinaikos winger Dimitris Salpigidis, while The Sun announce “Spurs are locked in a Â£7million race with Lyon to sign Dinamo Zagreb star Dejan Lovren.”
Lastly, Simon Bird announces “Newcastle fans have pledged more than Â£50 million to buy out Mike Ashley and take control of their club. The astonishing figure is revealed today by MirrorSport, as the Newcastle United Supporters Trust fronts a major scheme to allow fans to seize a significant stake at St Jamesâ€™s Park. Cash pledged by fans has been further bolstered by several major businesses in the North East who are ready to help bankroll an audacious takeover with seven figure sums.”