The government has condemned the decision by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to suspend Togo for two years for withdrawing from the Africa Cup of Nations following a gun attack on the team bus on the eve of the tournament.
In a media statement, the public relations officer in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Boniface Mabeo said the Botswana government received the suspension with shock and regret. Togo were suspended by CAF for four years which means they will miss the next two editions of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Mabeo described the suspension as insensitive and condemned the action. He said the attack, which claimed the lives of three people had caused immeasurable loss and CAF was supposed to show compassion. "The Government of Togo and the people of Togo have suffered an immeasurable loss which calls for a high degree of compassion and understanding from the African Football fraternity," Mabeo said. CAF cited government interference as the reason for suspending Togo from its competitions. But the Botswana government does not believe this was a valid reason.
"CAF rules barring interference by governments in the running of football cannot in this case apply, because governments ultimately have the responsibility for the welfare and security of their citizens," Mabeo said. He said football can never take precedence over the feelings of people after a tragic event.
"The CAF decision negates the spirit of football of bringing people together and the African spirit of unity and compassion. We call upon CAF to reverse its unreasonable decision to suspend Togo and we appeal to all CAF affiliates to apply pressure on the CAF governing body to revoke its decision," the statement said. FIFA development officer, Ashford Mamelodi described CAF's decision as shocking.
"Obviously it is quite shocking, considering the severity of the punishment," Mamelodi said.
He said maybe there are other circumstances that CAF considered before coming up with the suspension.
Mamelodi, a former Botswana Football Association (BFA) executive committee member, said he did not expect any punishment for Togo's withdrawal. "I feel Togo was supposed to be allowed to play in the tournament. But it terms of punishment, it is difficult to say what CAF should have done because maybe there were other circumstances that were considered, but the decision came as a surprise," Mamelodi said. Efforts to get a comment from BFA president, David Fani yesterday, were not successful as he was still in Angola where he attended the final between Egypt and Ghana.