Chances are, you do not know what a big turnaround this is. Because
most of America was probably unaware of events unfolding in Angola
Saturday when the Togo soccer team was caught in a brutal ambush attack as their bus journeyed toward the Africa Cup matches.

“Togo’s government wants an apology from Angola and African Cup of
Nations organizers for sending its soccer team into the unruly enclave
of Cabinda, where gunmen killed two team officials and the bus driver.

“A day after Togo’s bus was fired on with machine guns shortly after
crossing from Congo into Angola, Togo government spokesman Pascal
Bodjona said Saturday it was difficult to understand why Angolan
authorities chose Cabinda to host African Cup matches when it knew “the
area was a dangerous and risky zone.”

“It was unclear whether Togo would remain in the tournament.”

I followed this throughout the afternoon Saturday on the BBC, and it
was gripping as it unfolded. Last I heard, Togo officials
understandably decided they had to pull out and declared these games
unworthy of trust and the honor of sporting competition, and said their
team was badly shaken and would be going home.

Now, this:

“Togo’s football team has decided to play in the African Nations
Cup, even though the government withdrew it after a deadly attack on
Friday, players say.

“Thomas Dossevi told the AFP news agency the players wanted to stay
in Angola in memory of the three people who were killed when rebels
fired on their bus.”

Honor came to mean something much deeper than sports, and in short order the Togo team realized that.

“We are all heartbroken, it is no longer a party, but we want to
show our national colours, our values and that we are men,” Thomas
Dossevi said.

“It was a decision taken nearly unanimously by the team which met
during the night after having been reassured by the Angolan
authorities,” he added.

“Alaixys Romao also said the decision had been unanimous.

“We have just had a meeting of the whole delegation and we will be on the pitch on Monday to face Ghana,” he said.

“People have died for the Africa Cup of Nations, others have been
injured. We can’t let them down and leave like cowards,” he added.

“If we stay here it’s for them, but also not to give any
satisfaction to the rebels. Our government does not necessarily agree
with us but we are all determined to play this competition.”

The indomitable human spirit, striving for the triumph of dignity.

It begins Sunday, and ends January 31.

Go Togo.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....