African Cup of Nations loses further credibility after Togan ban

As a football fan, I have never liked the timing of the African Cup of Nations.

While I understand that there are geographical implications which would make playing a tournament at the height of summer something of a challenge, the competition has some image problems to address.

With so many of Africa's top players now plying their trade in Europe, their absence from club competition for a month is more than just a trifling inconvenience.

Until the competition moves out of season, perhaps to years that do not feature a World Cup or UEFA European Championship, it will always struggle for popularity and credibility.

But the despicable violence that took place on the eve of the tournament also had a terrible impact on the competition's credibility.

As one pundit on BBC television said yesterday, whatever happened in the Cup of Nations, the 2010 edition will always be remembered for the murder of three members of the Togo entourage rather than any excitement on the field.

While I can understand the confusion surrounding Togo's withdrawal and then plea to be reinstated, the ACN organisers missed a trick by not giving the players and Togo Federation a few days to decide what to do after the tragedy.

Subsequent claims that Togo could not return to play their games because satellites could not be reconfigured did little to help the Confederation of African Football (CAF)

But for the CAF to announce this weekend that they will ban Togo from the next two ACN competitions has done untold damage to the reputation of football in Africa.

It displays a lack of sympathy for those who died or lie injured, like reserve goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale who still has a bullet lodged near his spine.

CAF President Issa Hayatou may claim that he is trying to protect the integrity of the ACN but the truth is that this action has done much to undermine it.

Can you imagine Israel being banned from the Olympic Games after the atrocities in Munich in the 1970s? Of course not.

Pressure on Hayatou to resign will grow following this sorry action, which shows a profound lack of compassion, let alone public understanding.

This is a massive year for football in Africa with the FIFA World Cup taking place in South Africa.

Perhaps it needs the vision of a man like WC2010 organiser Danny Jordaan, a man who understand the global football landscape as well as having Africa in his heart, to take over as CAF President to restore confidence and credibility to the continent's football.