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08.01.2011 Sports News

World Football on BBC World Service speaks to Togolese goalkeeper one year on from the gun attack in Angola

By BBC World Service/World football
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London, Friday 7 November, 2010. The Togo goalkeeper left disabled by bullet wounds from agun attack while travelling to last year's African Cup of Nations tournament has told BBC World Service's World Football programme, that he has been completely ignored by the organisation that runs African football.

The BBC's Richard Connelly spoke to Kodjovi Obilale, 26, who was part of his country's squad making their way to Angola, the host country for the tournament in 2010. The Togolese team bus was fired upon repeatedly in the Cabinda province of the host country on 8 January 2010. Obilale was shot twice in the back and having since undergone seven operations to repair damage to his spine, liver, bladder and intestines - and will never play football again.

As part of a special report in this week's edition of World Football, Obilale told Richard Connelly that he has had no contact from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) since the attack:

"There are people who just don't have hearts," he told the BBC World Service. "All they think of is counting their cash."

Despite repeated requests for an interview, CAF have so far declined to comment to the BBC. They have, however, always maintained that Togo broke competition rules by travelling to their Nations Cup venue by road, and not as stipulated by air.

At the time of the attack, Obilale - who is still undergoing intensive physiotherapy in a bid to walk without the aid of crutches, played semi-professionally for GSI Pontivy in the French Amateur Championship (CFA), the fourth tier of French football.

His contract expired at the end of last season, and he told the BBC that since then he has relied on donations and the generosity of his former international colleague, Emmanuel Adebayor, who has remained in regular contact since the attack.

Obilale who lives in France with his wife and two young children, did receive $100,000 from world governing body FIFA in November, and has also had financial assistance from the Togolese Football Federation (FTF), and the French Football Federation.

But Obilale told the programme that nobody at the top of the game has taken any real interest in his future because he is not a big star.

"Honestly, if my name was Samuel Eto'o or Didier Drogba it wouldn't be happening like this," he said.

"Nobody would be offering me $25,000, [the sum FIFA originally offered] or $100,000. But it's because I play for Pontivy. [But] we all kick the same ball - it should be fair for everyone. They don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow, what my plans are. Nobody is asking.”

"I'm fighting every day to ask for fairness in all this, to get compensation and all that”.

"And everything I do, I do myself. I will have to shout for it. And that's why I say football is a rotten world."

In a statement to the BBC, FIFA stressed that CAF was responsible for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

"This tragedy took place during the Africa Cup of Nations, which is organised by CAF, and not by FIFA," it reads. "The regulations of the organiser are the ones which apply, and there are no specific FIFA regulations for such competitions…"

Asked if they had plans to offer Obilale additional financial or moral support, FIFA said details of correspondence with him would remain private.

Obilale is also considering whether to instruct his lawyer to take action against the Togolese Football Federation (FTF). "The federation - nobody cares,” he said. “I don't want to bite the hand that feeds me - they paid half my medical costs. But, for my future, nobody asks anything. Everyone stays quiet."

The FTF is being run by a new executive that only took charge in November. Its first vice-president, Herve Pizza, said they had a plan to support Obilale, but admitted to the BBC they hadn't told him about it yet. He told the programme:

"We want to give him a surprise, so that he understands all the board is entirely on his side.”

“He went (to Angola) as a footballer, to defend the national colours. It's right that the Federation should support him and look after him. That stands to reason completely. It's not a question of having lawyers and so forth."

The FTF say they have organised a requiem mass in the Togolese capital, Lome, for Saturday, the anniversary of the attack. Obilale told the programme he has not been invited.

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