Togo says fake team is mafia-owned

BY foxsports • September 16, 2010

The fake Togo national team that played Bahrain last week was made up of ''unidentified players and their shadowy handlers'' who belonged to a ''mafia group,'' the Togolese sports minister said Wednesday.

Christophe Tchao told The Associated Press that the team, which lost 3-0 at Bahrain's National Stadium in Riffa on Sept. 7, did not have the necessary authorization from his ministry to represent the country in an international friendly.

''This rule was not complied with by the group of unidentified players and their shadowy handlers,'' Tchao said. ''It is obvious that the players belonged to a mafia group, who aided and abetted them to leave Togo without authorization.''

Tchao said he had ordered the federation to provide his ministry with full details of ''the scandalous participation of a group of Togolese players in a friendly match with Bahrain.''

The Bahrain Football Association also appears to have been tricked, after a former Togo football official said his signature was forged in the letter to the Bahraini federation that set up the match.

The AP has received documents showing the name of Kodzo Samlan, a former secretary general at Togo's interim football federation, as the signatory in a letter dated Aug. 17 and addressed to BFA general secretary Ahmed Jassim Mohammad.

The documents were provided by the BFA, which said they were supposed to prove the game was legitimate.

However, Samlan said he stopped working for Togo's federation in May.

''So I could not have written that letter,'' Samlan said.

Another clue that the match was illegitimate was the substitution only minutes before the start of the match of the initial squad list with a completely different team document that contained unknown players.

Mystery also surrounds the role of another former Togo federation employee, Tchanile Bana, who is listed on the documents as one of five officials who accompanied the fake team to Bahrain.

Bana, a former member of the national team's technical staff, was banned from football for two years by Togo's government last month after taking a team to an international tournament in Egypt without permission.

Bana could not be reached for comment.

The incident is a further embarrassment for Togo after its football federation was dissolved by FIFA last December. The federation is due to elect a new leadership next month.

Togo chairman Seiyi Memene said the federation will investigate the incident with the aid of FIFA, which says it has not yet received a request from Togo for help.

FIFA said it wouldn't comment as the match was not played under its control.

The BFA intends to formally complain to Togo's federation, but said it is blameless in the incident.

Bahrain coach Josef Hickersberger called the match ''boring'' and ''a wasted opportunity'' and said the Togo players were not fit enough to play 90 minutes.

Togo's real national team played in Botswana three days before the fake match, losing 2-1 in an African Cup of Nations qualifier.