Soccer: Bus attack highlights security concerns in South Africa
By CHRIS LEHOURITES
AP Sports Writer
LONDON — The gun attack on Togo's national football team in Angola has again highlighted the security issues facing South Africa as it prepares to host the World Cup later this year.
The local organizers — and former World Cup-winning coaches Franz Beckenbauer and Marcello Lippi — remain confident that South Africa will put on a peaceful tournament.
"Of course, the shock at the terrible events sits deep," said Beckenbauer, three days after three people were killed and two Togo players were wounded in the attack on the Togo team. "But it would be a mistake if we Europeans lumped together South Africa and Angola."
The Togolese team was traveling by bus to Angola for the African Cup of Nations when it was attacked on Friday in the host country's volatile Cabinda region. An assistant coach, a team media spokesman and the Angolan bus driver were killed. Authorities have arrested two unidentified members of the separatist Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda.
The Togo team flew home on Sunday night.
"Perhaps the African Cup came a bit too early for Angola," Beckenbauer, who coached West Germany to the World Cup title in 1990 and won as a player in 1974, told the German daily Bild. "By contrast, South Africa is the continent's economic nation."
Angola has only recently overcome decades of violence, and the country's government was hoping the biennial continental championship would give it a chance to show the world it was on the way to recovery — much like South Africa is trying to prove itself after decades of apartheid kept that country racially segregated.
Despite Friday's attack, the three-week, 16-team African Cup opened Sunday in Luanda with Mali rallying for a 4-4 draw against Angola after being down 4-0. South African President Jacob Zuma attended the match.
"He (Zuma) emphasized that the shocking and unacceptable attack on the Togolese team should not be blown out of proportion, but should serve as impetus for the African continent and the world at large to work even harder to rid the world of terrorist activity and violence wherever it surfaces," presidential spokesman Vincent Magwenya said in a statement.
The first World Cup to be played on African soil will open on June 11 with host South Africa facing Mexico at Soccer City in Johannesburg. The final is scheduled for July 11 at the same stadium.
Security, along with transportation, is one of the biggest issues facing South Africa ahead of World Cup, when an estimated 450,000 fans will visit the country for the 32-team, monthlong tournament at 10 venues in nine cities across the country.
South Africa has one of the worst murder rates in the world with at least 50 people being killed a day, and the country plans to beef up police numbers and training by investing in high-tech equipment and crime-busting surveillance to combat crime as well as any threats from hooligans and terrorists.
World Cup organizing committee chief executive Danny Jordaan said linking the attack in Angola to South Africa is applying a double standard.
"When there are terrorist attacks in Europe, do we hear about the 2012 Olympics (in London) being under threat? No," Jordaan said. "Angola and South Africa are two separate geographical areas, two separate countries.
"I don't think the world has ever asked one country to take responsibility for what happens in another country," Jordaan said.
South Africa and Angola do not share a border. Namibia sits north of South Africa on the Atlantic coast, and Angola is north of that. The Cabinda region is even farther up the African coast, separated from the main part of Angola by Congo.
"People in the world are thinking of Africa as one country," organizing committee chairman Irvin Khoza said Monday. "We've got our own security plans but it can only be a lesson also that in terms of our security plans, that is a lesson that we can learn."
Lippi, who led Italy to its fourth World Cup title four years ago in Germany, has experience working in South Africa because he coached his team at last year's Confederations Cup.
"South Africa is one of the most developed countries on the African continent and I don't think we'll have anything to fear," Lippi said.
South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar, who is not playing at the African Cup because his team did not qualify, also said the attack on Togo will not have any impact on the World Cup.
"South Africa and Angola are two different worlds apart," said Pienaar, who plays for Premier League club Everton. "I understand how people might be worried. They have seen what has happened and think it might happen in South Africa. But it's two different worlds. This would not happen in South Africa."