World Cup news

Togo skipper: I won't go to Libya

June 11, 2013
By Ian Holyman, France Correspondent

Togo captain Alaixys Romao has said he will not go to Libya for Friday's World Cup qualifier unless FIFA president Sepp Blatter is there too and sits on the team's bench.

International football
GettyImagesBlatter: Romao has said he will only travel to Libya if the FIFA president does

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Romao, 29, had warned that the country's players feared a repeat of their horrific 2010 Africa Cup of Nations experience.

Three people, including two members of the Togolese delegation, were killed by machine-gun-wielding separatists when the team made its way to the Angolan enclave of Cabinda for its group stage games at the Nations Cup that year.

Romao was joined by international team-mate Jonathan Ayite, who plays for Brest, in leaving the team's hotel in the Togolese capital, Lome, to travel back to France on Monday.

The Marseille midfielder felt the fears he had raised about the Togo players' safety, voiced in an interview with L'Equipe, had not been sufficiently addressed.

Although FIFA agreed to move the match from Benghazi, where 30 people were killed and 100 injured in violent clashes last Saturday, to Tripoli, which staged Libya's goalless draw with the Democratic Republic of Congo last week, Romao was unimpressed.

"My cry for help was not really taken seriously," the captain told L'Equipe. "I won't go to Libya where I won't feel safe - even in Tripoli - except if Sepp Blatter goes with us, sleeps in the same hotel as us and sits in our dugout."

With continued fighting among rival factions in post-Colonel Gaddafi Libya, Togo would like the game to be moved to neutral territory. Coach Didier Six said he had been warned by French authorities in Libya that they could not guarantee his safety.

"A football match does not justify putting human life at risk," Romao said. "Everything going on around this game is bizarre and not very professional.

"There's almost no chance of our request being upheld. But the idea is to get things changed in the long term, and we cannot remain silent. I told Didier Six of my decision. He understood completely. Even he is not sure of going to Libya."

Six explained: "Certain players have told me of their wish not to go to Libya. I'll see [on Tuesday morning] how many players I have left, and I'll take a decision during the evening.

"There's danger, even in Tripoli, as the French embassy told me. There is also an organisational problem. We don't even know when we will leave Lome."

Libya are currently top of Group I, while Togo - in last place in the four-team section - are only two points behind after their 2-0 victory over Cameroon on Sunday.