At the beginning of the twentieth century only 10%-15% of those who died in war were civilians. Research has shown that by the end of the century over 75% of those killed in war were civilians. Civilians became a target of many separatist and other armed rebel groups especially in Africa where civil wars have sprang up since the struggle for independence. But events of yesterday in Angola added to the growing phenomenon of targeting of games and sports by insurgents and rebels for political motives.
You can say it has been there for ages and one can point to from the religious sectarianism among clubs like in Scotland, acts of violence and Hooliganism in some parts of Europe. Then there came the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munic when members of the Israel Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually murdered by Black September, a militant group that was said to have ties to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization.
Then March last year there was an attack on the Srilanka cricket team in Pakistan by militants. Such incidents are many but I picked the ones I remember. And in all I wonder whether these attackers really think such acts help their causes.
Yesterday’s shooting occurred in the Angolan oil-rich territory of Cabinda, where rebels have been fighting for independence. The Gunmen fired on a bus carrying the Togolese national football team to the Africa Cup of Nations on the way from the Republic of Congo where they were practicing ahead of the tie. An assistant coach, press officer and driver were killed. Two players were shot and injured
And the attack on the Togolese team produced two different reactions, whether it was due to the difference in information access or not we are yet to know. The Angolan government called the incident an “act of terrorism” but the Africa Cup of Nations officials described the attackers only as armed robbers.
May be these football officials wanted to stay clear from the politics and away from the word that has been used to bring untold suffering to many innocent people (terrorism) but still there are questions to be asked. And the question is whehter the Angolan government provided enough security knowing this is an area susceptible to FLEC rebel attacks.
I am concerned about the increasing attack on the most famous and beautiful game. A game that unites a people at least for 90 minutes. A game which will bring the world’s attention to Africa come June. These attacks as aimless and heartbreaking as they are seem endless. In October last year a Colombian guerrilla group kidnapped and killed ten football players.