Togo attack stokes Lahore horrors for Taufel
The shocking attack on the Togo football squad en route to the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola draws parallels with the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore, during their tour of Pakistan in March last year, according to Australian umpire Simon Taufel.
Separatist rebels opened fire on the bus carrying Togo players as it crossed into the restive Angolan enclave of Cabinda on Friday. The attack was eerily similar to the Lahore attacks, where six policemen and two civilians were killed, and six members of the Sri Lankan team and reserve umpire Ahsan Raza were injured.
Taufel, who was also present at the time said there were "too many" similarities between the two incidents. "It's one of the first things that came to mind - how similar and terrible, and how lucky. A bus carrying sports people cowardly attacked by ambush with their bus driver killed and a miracle that any people survived such an incident," Taufel told ESPN. "It is difficult to rationalize the thoughts in the minds of those who carry out such an act, so I don't know about the similarities there.
"It's a tragedy for the people involved and their families. For innocent people to be attacked going about their peaceful business and jobs is unjust. The people in the bus are soccer players, not soldiers, and my heart goes out to the families of the victims."
Taufel said the attack on the Togolese team also brought back some painful memories. "Just when you thought you could move on, it all comes back with an event like this. I suppose the experience and feelings never really leave you. You just learn how to deal with them and make the best of it.
"I'm just grateful to be still here after what happened and thankful for the help of the rest of the people involved. The events of recent days are another reality check for me and a reminder to cherish the present and make the most of life."
Though Sri Lanka immediately cancelled their tour after the Lahore attacks, Taufel believed it was "a tough question" facing the Togo players on their participation. "It has to be entirely up to the people involved," Taufel said. "The feelings and issues are too complex. Unless you are there and go through the event, that judgment is far too difficult for others to make - it's a personal decision by the players and one of a duty of care that the administrators will need to look at."
Taufel also called for "a high focus on effective protection and response" to stop these kinds of attacks on sports teams. "For me, I don't believe that you can control or ever 100% prevent these kinds of people attempting such acts. It is a problem that we now have to deal with on an ongoing basis. So, while we need to attempt to prevent such an event, we also need to prepare for and manage the problem. Costs should never be an issue for sporting administrators to consider and there needs to be a zero tolerance to breaches of security plans and arrangements."
Jason Dasey is a host of Cricinfo SportsCenter and two international editions of SportsCenter on ESPN