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Last Updated: Monday, 19 June 2006, 19:52 GMT 20:52 UK
Bonus row haunts failed Togo bid
By James Copnall
BBC News

Before the game...

It is difficult to imagine any team struggling through a more chaotic build-up to a major sports competition than Togo.

The west Africans have notched up more coach walkouts than World Cup points and more coaches than World Cup goals.

Above all, the Togolese have twice threatened to pull out of a World Cup game, most insistently before their second match, against Switzerland.

The Sparrowhawks, as the team are known, were demanding nearly $200,000 dollars per man merely for getting to the World Cup, as well as nearly $40,000 dollars per player for every win.

The average income in Togo is a shade more than a dollar a day.

Nevertheless, the players believed that a bonus structure agreed before qualifying for the tournament entitled them to the cash.

Togo's stars - many of whom play in the Europe's lower divisions or amateur leagues - went on strike just before the World Cup began.

WORLD CUP BONUSES
Angola: Up to $65,000 each
England: $550,000 if champions
Ghana: $20,000 per win
Saudi Arabia: $27,000 per win

Their German coach Otto Pfister was only appointed three months before the tournament, after the Nigerian Stephen Keshi was shamelessly sacked.

Faced with the rebellion over bonuses Pfister walked out, saying he could take no more.

Pfister came back into camp just before Togo's opening World Cup game, a 2-1 loss to South Korea.

Just when it seemed the Togolese would put their nightmare preparations behind them, the row over bonuses flared up again.

It apparently took the intervention of world football's governing body Fifa, as well as a sizeable chunk of cash, to persuade the Togolese to play in Monday's game against Switzerland.

That too ended in disappointment for the Sparrowhawks, a 2-0 loss.

Public support

But are the players, and coach Pfister, the villains of the piece?

Coach Otto Pfister exhorts his men during the game
Coach Pfister threatened to quit before both Togo's matches
Fans in the Togolese capital, Lome, certainly don't seem to think so.

When Pfister's image appeared for the first time on TV during the South Korea game, supporters packed in front of the giant screen where I was watching the game in Lome gave a huge cheer.

Their feelings about their "money-grabbing" national team players were just as positive.

"A famished player cannot play good football, so I think they should get the money," one fan said.

"After all, the World Cup has brought lots of money into Togolese football, and it should go to the players."

Fifa gives each nation that qualifies for the World Cup $5.7 million (3.1m), and each country makes additional money from sponsorship.

"If the players don't get the money it will just go straight into the pockets of the administrators," said another fan.

African tradition

Togo's travails are dramatic, but they are far from being unique.

Cameroon's Indomitable Lions are constantly fighting with their federation over bonus payments.

A dejected fan after Togo slump to a 2-0 loss and a World Cup exit
Togo's unsuccessful World Cup debut was a bitter blow
In 2002 the Cameroonians were stuck in Paris for several days, waiting for the sports ministry to pay the agreed sum to the players. The team almost missed a friendly game with England as a result.

Constant rows over money also helped persuade the Arsenal defender Lauren Etame Mayer to quit the Cameroon team.

In 1974, Zaire's preparations were just as unconventional.

A joke in Francophone Africa contends that the team took nine witchdoctors to the World Cup - one for each of the goals the team conceded against Yugoslavia.

Rows over money also blighted that African World Cup campaign.

Apart from money problems and the inability to concentrate on the football, Togo in 2006, Cameroon in 2002 and Zaire in 1974 have another thing in common.

They were all knocked out in the first round.




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