Go to contents

Team Togo: Fast, Loose and Confident

Posted June. 10, 2006 03:34,   


The media in Togo is issuing “warning messages” against Cho Jae-jin.

In its June 9 article, Mondial Togo, a soccer magazine in Togo, reported, “Cho Jae-jin (25, Shimizu S-Pulse) is a rising star on whom the Korean national team places high expectations. His growth is as phenomenal as that displayed by Ahn Jung-hwan (30, MSV Duisburg), who led his team to the semi-finals in the 2002 World Cup.” The magazine quoted Cho as saying, “Our team will put in a more brilliant performance than during the lead-up to the World Cup finals.”

Despite all the warnings and worries in Togo, the Togolese team is in a very good mood.

Otto Pfister, the Togo team’s head coach, is trying to refrain from imposing overly tight constraints on his players. The Togo players hardly looked strained when they were in training yesterday in Wagen, Germany, where fans were allowed to watch. After the training, fans asked a couple of players for their autographs, causing delay for the entire team. Though the entire team had to wait, no one complained.

The level of freedom the Togolese players enjoy certainly plays a role in giving journalists the impression that the Togo team is “unpredictable.” There were occasions when the team canceled training sessions and changed its schedules at a moment’s notice. For instance, on June 7, the team changed the venue of its morning training from Wagen to neighboring Lindenberg without informing journalists of the change.

As much as the team feels free to make changes in its schedules at short notice, it also feels free to forget about punctuality. Being late is hardly frowned upon in the Togo team.

On June 8, the team and the assistant coach showed up almost an hour late for a press conference. On June 9, Pfister was 10 minutes late for the open training. Fans and journalists had to wait 10 more minutes for the players to arrive.

Even more confusing to outsiders is the bonus issue between the national football team and the Togo Football Federation (FTF). On June 7, the FTF announced that they reached an agreement, to which a player on the national team angrily responded by arguing that the problem had yet to be resolved. The situation has worsened to the point where even the Togo prime minister has been dragged into the problem solving. On the issue, Reuters quoted a senior official at the FTF as saying, “To help the two parties settle the issue, Prime Minister Edem Kodjo himself will come to Germany.”

Observers may consider the Togo team unpredictable. But they are certain about one thing: the team is very confident. Some might point out that the opponents Togo picked for its try-out matches were not strong. Still, Togo scored four wins and only one defeat. At the June 8 press conference, the assistant coach exhibited much confidence, saying, “Four points is all we need to go to the second round. The match with the Korean team will give us three points.” Mohamed Kader, the team’s ace forward, also echoed his coach’s confidence, “We can defeat the Korean team at any time if we want to.”

Seung-Kun Lee why@donga.com