So, all teams having played their debut matches, it’s time for the group stages to get gritty! A redacted pun involving the word “griot” Shall we review today’s CAN ’10 action in Luanda?!
After the humiliation of handing Malawi their first-ever win at a Cup of Nations, Algeria buckled down and got themselves organized. Mali looked as listless as they did in their first 70 minutes against Angola, and a somewhat insipid offensive display here yielded just one shot on goal. It was a game of destructive midfield play and consistent tactical fouling (Mali 25 fouls to Algeria’s 21—a lot!). Perhaps predictably then, Algeria’s headed goal came from a set-piece about 40 yards out, given after a Yacine Bezzaz was hacked down while threatening to bring down a long ball.
Freddie Kanouté started off the bench, and manage to brighten Mali’s star a bit when he entered the match an hour in—but clearly not enough to haul back an equalizing goal. Getting out of the group stages now looks slightly improbable for Les maliennes, and the task is none the easier as captain and Real Madrid benchwarmer M. Diarra is suspended for the final group match after getting his 2nd yellow card of the group stage. [WARNING: BACK OF ENVELOPE QUALIFYING CALCULATIONS] They need a win against Malawi this coming Monday and need Angola to beat Algeria (with whom they would lose the tie-breaker of head-to-head goal difference)—right? Your MLK holiday plans are thus set!
An-GOL-a continued to look spritely in attack, but managed to avoid a historic defensive/mental implosion this time around. Mabiná impressed in a wide role, Djalma again caused problems by taking on defenders, and captain Kali reverted to the commanding form he showed pre-meltdown against Mali. Angola’s 2nd came through a defensive error when Malawi captain and centerback Peter Mponda mponderously tried to dribble the ball out of the back. He was relieved of the ball by at the edge of the box by a hard-working Manucho, who calmly clipped over the keeper to make it 2-0.
Inauspicious signs for Angola however, as they lost defensive midfielder Gilberto to a reaggravated injury, and at 60′ Flávio went off on a stretcher with a tweaked hamstring. Djalma was also subbed after going down…if all these indeed turn out to be legit injuries, then Angola will find themselves stripped of some of their most impressive performers. [WARNING: BACK OF ENVELOPE QUALIFYING CALCULATIONS] A draw against Algeria on Monday will see them qualify, though a win will cement them as group winnners.
MEANWHILE IN CABINDA….CORRESPONDENT AUDREY GNASHES HER INCISORS YET DEEPER INTO THIS STORY!
Lara Pawson continues to be the best source of information on the events unfolding in Cabinda. Following her staggering suggestion that perhaps the attack on the Togolese bus was NOT the work of FLEC, but instead a plot by Angolans intelligence agents to frame FLEC (giving them an excuse to label the independence movements as “terrorist” in the eyes of the world) she brings us the news that the bus driver is actually ALIVE? And being hidden away somewhere? WHAT?! Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reports that the Angolan government has begun indiscriminately jailing Cabindan civilians…
Sooo, it’s Day 2, the Day After Day 1. In an on-again-off again saga that truly tested the wobbly journalistic legs of newborn BOLAS & BANDEIRAS, it looks like the Togo squad is officially out of the tournament. After the team’s emotional post-attack meeting in which they decided to soldier on in tribute to their fallen comrades, they were ultimately summoned home by Togo’s Prime Minister Gilbert Houngbo. Still, they expressed interest in returning to the Cup of Nations after a 3-day mourning period…however the possibility to this has now been nixed by tournament administrators.
I guess I can sympathize with the Cup organizers, who might be daunted by the last-minute juggling required to allow Togo a 3-day reprieve, but surely television schedules could be put on the back burner in light of this tragedy. The more disappointing decision comes on the part of Togo’s functionaries/sports bureaucracy. Maybe there was no consensus on what was best for the team, but clearly the players wanted to stay on and participate in the Cup, rather than leaving “like cowards” (as Alaixys Romao put it). You’d have to think it’s demoralizing (maybe even emasculating) for them to be so dramatically overruled by tut-tutting government types.
meanwhile…Correspondent Audrey sez:
Angolan press agencies are reporting that two members of the FLEC group that attacked the Togolese team have been captured “at the site of the incident, on the road to Massabi that links Angola and Congo.”
After the utter failure of their previous attempts to rouse international sympathy for their struggle, Friday’s attack can only been seen as an ill-advised publicity stunt. But as former BBC correspondent Lara Pawson describes, the political landscape in Cabinda has become increasingly murky over the past several years. If, in fact, the two captured members are indeed responsible for the attack, one can only hope they won’t be subject to the same “indiscriminate repression” and abuses that Human Rights Watch denounced the Angolan government for earlier this year.
…in this screen cap from Bernardo Bertolucci’s Prima della rivoluzione, which I made while watching the film 2 nights before the Togo bus attack:
The Independent has a piece about the FLEC, and their use of terrorism to renew interest in their cause:
Mark Schroeder, an Africa analyst with global intelligence firm Stratfor, said the killings had been an opportunistic attack by Flec “to say ‘Hey, we are still here’.” The government had been “overly confident in its attempts to pacify the province” in recent years, something that had now blown up in its face.
The African Nations Cup tournament was meant to be a showcase for the progress made by Angola, which is now Africa’s largest oil producer, after decades of brutal civil war. But Cabinda with its continuing human rights abuses and unrest makes a mockery of the modern democracy the government had wanted to portray.
The decision to have the Group B games in Cabinda is looking more and more like a reckless and underhanded decision by the Angolan government, an attempt to validate their claims to ownership of the exclave. That they chose to put the four teams of Group B at risk with this move, and that the FLEC’s brutal tactics—carried out in direct response to this decision, so it seems—claimed several innocent lives, is to be sorely regretted. The actions of the FLEC are obviously indefensible, but fingers must also be pointed at the Angolan Football Federation for putting athletes at risk with this brash endeavor.
Rodrigues Mingas, a spokesman for the Front for the Liberation of Enclave of Cabinda, said: ‘We have nothing against Togo, I like the Togolese team. But it’s a war and anything goes.’
There are fears that the likes of Drogba, whose diamond-encrusted watch is worth 51,000 pounds (S$114,000), could be a prime target in a country where the average weekly wage is less than £20.
To shed a bitttt of light on the background politics likely motivating the attack on the Togo squad’s bus (which Cabinda Affairs Minister Bento Bembe has already called “an act of terrorism”), we’d like to welcome our in-house Luso-enthusiast and Portugal-based correspondent Audrey:
The attack on the Togo national team has cast attention on an oft-neglected part of Africa: the region of Cabinda. When Cabindan chiefs signed a treaty with the Portuguese government in 1885, they were deemed a semi-autonomous protectorate that would become known as ‘Portuguese Congo’, and it was not until 1956 that Portugal began to govern Angola & Cabinda together — needless to say, without asking the Cabindans. The gradual administrative merge between Portuguese dictator Salazar’s two “provinces” prompted the creation of the Front for the Liberation of the Cabindan Enclave (FLEC), an independence movement that was to fight not only for liberation from Portugal, but for separation from Angola. Following the 1974 revolution in Portugal, as the Angolan independence movements of the MPLA, the FNLA, and UNITA met with the new Portuguese government to discuss the terms of their independence (which was to quickly devolve into a decades long civil war), no one bothered to invite FLEC along. The political groups of Cabinda refused to recognize the resulting treaty, which included a provision naming Cabinda a province of Angola, and declared themselves independent, which naturally the Angolans then refused to recognize. Despite the end of the civil war in 2002, the conflicts between Cabinda and Angola did not officially end for several more years, when a ceasefire agreement was signed, although the argument can be made that they still have yet to end, as offshoot FLEC groups continue to violently declare their independence.
And why does Angola continue to hold on so relentlessly to Cabinda? The same old story: OIL. Oil is Angola’s leading source of revenue, and underdeveloped Cabinda, sometimes referred to as the “Kuwait of Africa”, is the home of more than half of the country’s oil production. Independence then, seems not only unlikely, but impossible. Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos has already offered to hold a referendum on Cabinda’s independence — or rather, to hold an Angola-wide referendum that would allow 12 million Angolans and 230,000 Cabindans to vote on the matter — an empty gesture indeed.
Despite the legitimacy of Cabinda’s claim for autonomy, attacking a bus full of Togolese futebol players & killing innocent civilians has inarguably done more harm than good for their cause.