Sunday June 18, 2006
FIFA persuades Togo players not to boycott Switzerland match
DORTMUND, Germany (AP): FIFA got involved in Togo's World Cup pay dispute, encouraging the African players not to boycott Monday's Group G match against Switzerland.
FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren confirmed the intervention occurred because it was "match day, minus one'' and there was concern the Togo players would not travel from their training base to the match.
"When we heard there were problems, and some people were not willing to travel, through all our channels we contacted the team,'' Herren told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Sunday.
He said "various levels'' of FIFA delegates were involved in the negotiations, telling the players, "if you don't travel, it could be the worst thing you could do.''
Herren said if Togo had boycotted the match, it would have been disqualified from the World Cup and faced further sanctions from FIFA's disciplinary committee.
"As long as they travel, which I believe they have done, I think it's OK,'' Herren said.
No team has ever boycotted a match at the final stage of the World Cup since it started in 1930.
Togo lost to South Korea 2-1 in its opening match last week, seemingly overcoming a pay dispute that overshadowed its buildup.
Togo coach Otto Pfister, who quit because of the pay dispute before the World Cup started and then rejoined his team hours before its opening match, is considering legal action against a senior Togolese federation official who accused him of being a drunkard and a traitor.
The players, most of whom are with smaller European clubs, wanted US$200,000 (euro158,000) each to play in the tournament, plus US$39,000 (euro30,800) each per win and US$20,000 (euro15,800) per draw.
This is a fortune in a coffee-and-yam-growing country where the average income is less than US$400 (euro316) per year.