The footballer who was a victim of terror and now abandonment.

Togo Goalkeeper Obilale being taken to hospital in wake of the terrorist bus attack – January 2010.

The memories of the terrorism that marred the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament earlier this year are already starting to disappear into the history books, but for one victim in particular the wounds are as fresh as the fateful day he was shot in the back twice.

This week FIFA announced Togolese Goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale would receive a $25,000 donation from the FIFA Humanitarian Fund.

Obilale fought for his life successfully following the shooting, but at a cost. Obilale still cannot walk, has no movement in one of his legs below the knee and can’t feel either of his feet. He won’t play professional football again.

Speaking in early September, Obilale said that he had been abandoned – citing that nobody from the Confederation of African Football – CAF (the organisers of the Africa Cup of Nations), or the Angolan government (hosts) had been in contact. One cannot imagine that if a Dutch international had been wounded on English soil that UEFA or the British Government would have wiped their hands clean.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) rely heavily on the Africa Cup of Nations tournament – with 80% of their revenue coming in as a direct result. That they haven’t contacted Obilale beggars belief.

In a desperate plea Obilale wrote to FIFA President Sept Blatter who stated that FIFA can’t be held responsible for the tragic event, but offered $25,000 as a gesture. $70,000 of funds promised by the Togolese government arrived with the help of the international pressure. Even with these funds, they cover just three months of his hospital bills. He has been hospital stricken for seven.

So who should be responsible?

At the time it was documented by the Togolese football federation vice-president Gabriel Ameyi that “they (the Togo team) should have flown to Angola” yet it emerged that the CAF had indeed expected the squad to fly to the Angolan capital, Luanda and from there to Cabinda, rather than heading through Congo by bus as they did. Quite simply they were not going in the safest manner and responsibility has to lie with the Togolese FA in that regard but it throws up some questions about how something like travel plans could be left so unclear.

One takes it for granted that when England play abroad everything is done in the safest manner, a professional athlete would expect nothing less than complete safety. Indeed, look no further than Dani Samuels, the Australian World Discuss champion who has refused to go to Delhi for the upcoming Commenwealth games on safety fears – “no gold medal is worth risking my life for.”

Yet with an Angolan minister insisting three weeks before the tournament that safety was ‘guaranteed’ in Cabinda one could look closer to the Angolans for some responsibility as well.

Exactly who and how much should be paid to Obilale will be debated. Yet given he still owes over $100,000 in medical fees and will not get another 10 years of professional football that beckoned the amount he should receive is questionable. What is certain though is that the Togolese government and Football Association seem most culpable given their players were not going in the safest and more importantly, expected manner when representing their country. It seems only fair they take responsibility for anything that happens under their watch.

Ultimately it shouldn’t be left to FIFA to give handouts to victims of terror. They govern the world of football, not politics and terrorism and long may that continue.


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