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World Cup Not Threatened By Togo Attack

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Adrian Musolino
Adrian Musolino

The deadly attack on Togo’s football team as they prepared for the African Cup of Nations in Angola doesn’t represent a threat to the World Cup being held in South Africa, as has been stated by Hull City coach Phil Brown and others.  

What such comments and fears highlight is an ignorance of both the African continent and the nature of terrorism.  

When you consider the geographical distance between the location of the attack and South Africa, which is the equivalent distance between London and Moscow, it is short-sighted to claim the attack on Togo’s team bus can somehow be linked to South Africa’s suitability as World Cup host because it’s on the same continental land mass. 

More importantly, the attack relates to long-running insurgency in the province of Cabinda; a battle for independence that has nothing to do with South Africa, apart from being thousands of kilometers apart on the same continent. 

Not only is South Africa much more developed than Angola in terms of border controls, security and the like, security will undoubtedly be of utmost priority to the World Cup organisers.   

However, it is foolish to just assume that the World Cup will be safe as a result of tight security measures and South Africa’s good record of hosting major events without major security breaches – see the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the Indian Premier League in 2009 and the forerunner to the World Cup, the 2009 Confederations Cup.  

Just as we can never assume one country is doomed to come under some form of attack or faces a higher risk because of some link to a previous attack (as Brown is doing with the World Cup in South Africa), we can never guarantee a terrorist free event, no matter how much security is prioritised.  

Sport is not immune from terrorism – see the Olympics in Munich ’72 and Atlanta ’96, the Mumbai bombings that sent the IPL to South Africa, the Sri Lankan cricket team bus attack and the threats to the Dakar Rally that forced the event to relocate to South America.  

Given sports worldwide popularity and mass appeal, it’s remarkable it hasn’t been used as a stage for terrorism more often.  

The correlation being made between the Togo attack and World Cup also shows how many still lack a fundamental understanding of terrorism.  

Terrorism is not just a mass network that can be connected to certain trouble spots by groups with political agendas. Individuals at anytime, anywhere, using political justifications or not, can also commit terrorist acts.  

It is not something that can be predicted or expected, as so many are now doing with the South African World Cup.  

The attack on the Togo national team does not increase the threat to this year’s World Cup, just as the World Cup was not completely safe from such acts, even before this latest tragedy.

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