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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 20:49 GMT
Togo players in bid to keep Keshi
By Piers Edwards

Eric Akoto (left) and Massamesso Tchangai
Eric Akoto (left) and Massamesso Tchangai want Keshi reinstalled

A delegation of Togolese internationals is flying to the capital Lome from Europe in a bid to restore former national coach Stephen Keshi to his post.

The Togolese Football Federation (TFF) dismissed the Nigerian manager in mid-February and replaced him with Germany's Otto Pfister.

Yet many within the Hawks squad are not happy with the change and its timing in particular, with the World Cup just 14 weeks away.

The Europe-based trio of defenders Dare Nibombe, Massamesso Tchangai and goalkeeper Kossi Agassa will arrive in the Togolese capital on Sunday night and hope to speak to TFF officials on Monday.

"Most of us haven't accepted the new coach and would like Keshi to be in charge," Togo international Eric Akoto told BBC Sport.

Keshi won the best coach in Africa award because he took us to the World Cup and we need to know why he was sacked
Togo international Eric Akoto

"When we heard about Pfister's appointment, we all started calling each other to decide what to do. We wanted about ten players to travel but some of us didn't have time to go.

"It's not the right time to change coach as he has so little time to see and know the players. What can a new coach do in three months?

"If they are going to make a change, they should do it after the World Cup."

The Hawks achieved a maiden World Cup qualification last October, but the players' joy has now been replaced by concern.

Several blame Togo's poor showing at the 2006 Nations Cup on a lack of adequate preparation given to the team by the TFF before the competition in Egypt.

Inadequate planning has also left the Togolese without a fixture this week in what is the last of Fifa's international dates for friendlies before the end of the European season.

Otto Pfister

"It is unbelievable that we are not playing," Akoto explained.

"The federation has to listen. It made a big mistake in Egypt, when we didn't have good enough training before the tournament, and it's now going to make another one for the World Cup.

"It's very shameful for all the players. All our clubs are asking us why everybody is playing a friendly this week apart from Togo?"

"Morale is not very good right now, and is at about 30-40% for the players."

With many of Europe's leading leagues ending on the weekend of 13-14 May, Pfister will have less than two weeks to work with the Togolese players before naming his World Cup squad on the deadline of 26 May.

As yet, the TFF has not named any friendly internationals in the run-up to the World Cup, which kicks off on 9 June.

"If we can't play friendlies, the World Cup is going to be difficult for us because most Togo players are not playing regularly at their clubs," added Akoto.

"Pfister doesn't know the players but Keshi does and he has done well for Togo.

"He won the best coach in Africa because he took us to the World Cup and we need to know why he was sacked."

Earlier this month, the TFF announced it had dismissed Keshi because of differences between the Nigerian and key players in the team.

The manager fell out with star striker Emmanuel Adebayor during the tournament although the pair have since reconciled.

Togo will play South Korea, Switzerland and 1998 champions France in Group G at the World Cup, which runs between 9 June and 9 July.

Otto Pfister named Togo coach
22 Feb 06 |  African
Togo coach stays put
20 Feb 06 |  African
Togo coach hangs in the balance
14 Feb 06 |  African


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