Official: Togo team was impostor

Updated: September 14, 2010, 3:03 PM ET
Associated Press

LOME, Togo -- The Togo team that lost 3-0 to Bahrain in an exhibition last week was "completely fake," the chairman of Togo's interim soccer federation told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Seiyi Memene said the federation did not know the players who claimed to represent Togo in the match at Bahrain's National Stadium in Riffa last Tuesday.

"We cannot send our players to play friendly matches abroad without the approval of FIFA," Memene told the AP. "The players that took part in the friendly match against Bahrain were completely fake. We have not sent any team of footballers to Bahrain. The players are not known to us."

Nabine Gnonh, chief of staff at Togo's sports ministry, said both the ministry and the federation now have opened an investigation.

"We don't have precise information at this point," Gnonh said. "We haven't received the list of the players who played this match and we still have to check if they were members of the national team."

Nabine couldn't say if regular Togo players had been interviewed.

Togo sports minister Christophe Tchao told the AP that his country will ask FIFA to investigate.

FIFA said Tuesday it will not comment because it did not sanction the match.

Under FIFA rules, national teams are free to arrange their own exhibitions and even play in a neutral country if they choose. However, FIFA does collect a fee from match revenues and also requires that exhibitions between teams from different continents are arranged by match agents it has licensed.

Match agent licenses can only be held by individuals, not companies, and must be approved by the FIFA players' status committee, which is chaired by Geoff Thompson, England's representative on FIFA's executive committee.

Three days before the game in Bahrain, Togo lost 2-1 in Botswana in an African Cup of Nations qualifier.

Doubts emerged over the authenticity of the Togo team in Bahrain after a federation official told local media that the game had been "sold" to the BFA by a "fake agent."

Last month, the Togolese government imposed a two-year ban on a member of the national team's technical staff, Tchanile Bana, for taking a group of players to Egypt without permission.

The unwelcome attention on Togolese soccer also comes weeks before elections designed to give the troubled federation a fresh start. FIFA dissolved the Togo FA's ruling committee last December and installed an interim panel to run its affairs until new elections could be held.

Togo also was found last year to have fielded an ineligible player, Abdul Mamah, who should have served a suspension during an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Gabon.

Two Togo team officials and a driver were killed in January when their bus was attacked by separatist rebels in Angola's Cabinda territory as they traveled to the African Cup of Nations.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press