After the unprecedented, tragic prelude to the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, in which the travelling Togo team’s bus was caught in a deadly crossfire of separatists seeking independence for the volatile oil-rich region of Cabinda, members of the football fraternity can only hope that no such act of terror occurs in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Football, and in particular the exciting festival that is the Cup of Nations, has always provided for millions of hardworking people across the continent a pleasurable source of escapism from the tough challenges of the daily grind. And we want to keep it that way.
As memories of that Angolan nightmare fade away, while fans and football commentators speculate passionately on the possible successor to the title that Egypt held with an iron grip for the last six years – winning an unprecedented three consecutive titles (seven in all) – we must not forget the young man called Kodjovi Obilale, who is a living casualty of that horrific incident.
The former Togo goalkeeper, shot in the back, has had seven operations to repair damage to his spine, liver, bladder and intestines, with no hope of ever resuming a football career.
That the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the organisers of the Nations Cup, refused to provide financial assistance to the 26-year-old, even when FIFA, the world governing body, gave Obilale $100,000, does little to alter the widely-held view that the chieftains of the continental body are completely out of touch with the needs of African football.
CAF president Issa Hayatou, who bears the responsibility – at least until the January 2013 elections – of setting the right agenda for African football, would do his battered public image a world of good by showing demonstrable concern for Obilale’s future.
After a stern official “reprimand” from the Ethics Committee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for receiving, in 1995, a direct $26,270 cash payment from ISL, the defunct sports marketing company, Hayatou has little to celebrate at the moment.
According to the IOC, Hayatou could not provide incontrovertible proof of CAF’s receipt of the said money. A certificate of receipt, issued by CAF’s finance director in March 2011, does “not guarantee that the  payments were indeed made into the CAF accounts”. The IOC’s verdict has left a big question for the CAF president to answer.
In the meantime, the show that is the 2012 Cup of Nations must go on. To the 16 teams in the title race, bon chance…