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EXCLUSIVE: I survived bus shooting now back us Togo all the way

by Josh Powell | January 15, 2013
BACK US TOGO ALL THE WAY: Serge Akakpo says the 2010 tragedy has made the team stronger

INTERVIEW: Speaking to the PP Blog, Serge Akakpo says the 2010 tragedy has made the team stronger

By Josh Powell | Africa Cup of Nations exclusive

It’s three years since one of Togo’s darkest days. Three people, including Togo’s assistant coach, were killed when terrorists ambushed their bus at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.

Emmanuel Adebayor hid under a seat and survived and now, as Togo prepare for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, an international team-mate of the Spurs striker has spoken about his country’s chances of pulling off a shock in the tournament.

Ahead of the kick-off this Saturday, Togo captain Serge Akakpo spoke exclusively to the Paddy Power Blog about what it means to have survived the attack and to be playing in the Africa Cup of Nations as he eyes a dream move to the Premier League.

“None of us played in 2010 because of the tragedy, so this is my first tournament. I am very excited to be able to play in South Africa and be part of the Africa Cup of Nations again,” said 25-year-old Serge.

The memories of 2010 are very sad because what happened was truly awful, not only for the team but for the whole of Togo. It was a terrible situation for the entire country and everybody was very upset. For the team and their families it was a tragedy, but now we have to go on. Because of our successful qualification we can play in South Africa and try to move forward from what happened in Angola.

Following the shooting Togo withdrew from the Africa Cup of Nations. The Confederation of African Football then banned the country from competing in the next two tournaments and fined them $50,000 for pulling out of the competition. After a large outcry the ban was lifted in May 2010, but Togo failed to qualify for the 2012 tournament after a disappointing qualifying campaign where they won just one game.

Going into this tournament their form is better and qualification was secured with a 3-2 aggregate win over Gabon last October.

Serge added: “This event is very special because now we have the opportunity to show the world that we survived. We can show our football and show our strength. We were confident two years ago but didn’t play. Now I believe we can get through the first round and go far.”

Togo are in Group D and have a tough task to make it through to the knock-out stages. Last year’s finalists and this year’s 13/8 favourites Ivory Coast are well-backed to top the group and are Togo’s opponents on Tuesday, January 22.

The other two teams in Group D are 2004 champions Tunisia (16/1) and 2010 semi-finalists Algeria (14/1). It’s a tricky group to navigate but Serge believes an upset could be on the cards.

“We have every chance in the world of winning this competition because the Africa Cup of Nations is the hardest competition to win. Last year it was Zambia and Ivory Coast in the final and everybody was surprised because Zambia won. Nobody thought they could do it. Zambia proved everyone has a chance in the Africa Cup of Nations. We are not scared of Ivory Coast or any other team. We are a talented group,” said Serge.

The Togo team has unity and the players are hungry. If we play together and fight together we will have a great chance in South Africa.

Akakpo is a skilled defender who plays in the Slovakian top-flight for MSK Zilina. But, speaking on the phone from South Africa, he says he dreams of a move to England to compete in the best league in the world.

“I would love to play in the Premier League. It is a good championship and I have a lot of friends who play there. It is one of my biggest dreams to play in England,” he said.

I would like to play for Arsenal because of their style of play. They play technically-good football with plenty of passing and movement of the ball and that’s the kind of football I like to play. There are many good teams in the Premier League but Arsenal would have to be my favourite.

Togo are 66/1 to win the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa and 4/1 to qualify from a tough group which includes Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Algeria.

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