FIFA giving $25,000 to Togo ‘keeper

Sepp Blatter is promising US$25,000 (18,500 euros) for Kodjovi Obilale, the goalkeeper shot and badly injured in the terror attack on Togo’s team bus at the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

Obilale, speaking Monday by phone, said he received a letter from the FIFA president this weekend. Blatter wrote that the money would come from a FIFA humanitarian fund, Obilale said.

"It’s kind," he said of the donation.

Obilale was shot twice in the back, suffering spinal and other injuries. He can no longer move his right leg below the knee nor feel its foot and toes. The 25-year-old does not expect to ever again play football but hopes that, with time, he might be able to walk. For now, he uses a wheelchair.

In an interview last week with The Associated Press, Obilale said he felt that football officials abandoned him after the machine-gun attack claimed by separatists in Angola’s oil-producing Cabinda region. The Togo team’s assistant coach, its press official and their Angolan bus driver were killed.

Obilale said that neither the Confederation of African Football, which organizes the Africa Cup, nor Angola, which hosted the 2010 edition, have contacted him. He also complained that officials in Togo have been slow to help.

Frustrated, he wrote to Blatter in August asking for his assistance. Even though FIFA was not directly involved in the cup, Africa’s showpiece football tournament, Obilale felt that only football’s world governing body has the power to force CAF, Angola and Togo to come up with a decent compensation package.

"The only person who can shift all this is Mr. Blatter," he said in the interview at his hospital in western France, where he used to play professionally.

Blatter wrote back that FIFA could not be held responsible for the "tragic" attack, Obilale said, reading the letter out by phone to The AP. But Blatter added: "We will continue to study this dossier."

"I wish you a lot of courage," Blatter wrote, according to Obilale.

A payment of $70,000 (53,000 euros) that Togo’s sports minister promised a month ago when he visited Obilale in France finally landed in his bank account last week.

Obilale said Monday that the money was sufficient to pay off three of his seven months of hospital bills. He plans to send the remainder of the bill to authorities in Togo for payment.