EMMANUEL ADEBAYOR has admitted the Togo squad had decided they wanted to play in the Africa Cup of Nations – only to be overruled by government officials.
The Manchester City striker joined his Togo team-mates on the plane back home last night following Friday’s attack on the team bus which claimed three lives.
Initial reports suggested the players were in favour of withdrawing from the tournament, but Adebayor told how he led a team meeting where it was eventually decided they wanted to play on as a mark of respect for those killed.
But Togolese prime minister Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo and president Faure Gnassingbe had the final say yesterday, insisting the players return home immediately on the presidential plane, despite last-ditch talks with the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Houngbo said: “We understand the approach of the 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.”
Speaking to a French radio station, ex-Arsenal star Adebayor explained: “The head of state has decided we will return. There was a meeting between players yesterday 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. 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.”
Adebayor also revealed he had spoken to both Ivory Coast and Ghana camps – two of Togo’s group opponents – to discuss the situation.
“As captain and spokesman of Togo, I spoke with all authorities. I told them to take the measures necessary for our security,” he added.
“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.”
Separatist group, The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), who reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, have now denied they carried it out.
Meanwhile, Mali completed a stunning fightback to draw 4-4 with Angola in the opening game of the tournament in Luanda last night, having been 4-0 down with 11 minutes remaining.
Ex-Tottenham and West Ham striker Frederic Kanoute was among the goals for Mali, while Flavio fired a first-half double for the Angolans.