Emmanuel Mathias, Hapoel Petach Tikvah’s Togolese defender, escaped the Angolan terror attack due to a lucky twist of fate.
Mathias, 23, would have been on the team bus that was gunned down by terrorists - leaving three Togo officials dead and several others injured - last Friday, had it not been for a clerical mix-up.
Having made five appearances for Togo, Mathias was named in the squad for the African Nations Cup but he did not make the final squad because his Israeli club were notified after the deadline about his selection and refused to release him.
Grieving in Israel this week, the player told the JC that there is no way the players could have taken part in the African Nations Cup after the attack.
“I think the team had to withdraw,” he told our reporter. “The players would not have been able to concentrate after what happened.”
Mathias said that he was devastated when he learned of the attack. “A journalist friend phoned me from Togo and told me to look on the internet. I couldn’t sleep all night and of course that affected my performance when we lost 1-0 to Maccabi Tel Aviv the next day. I would really like to go home and be with
the lads and attend the funerals but I understand that Hapoel have important games in their battle against relegation and cannot do without me.”
There are six Israeli based players participating in the African Nations Cup including all three of Nigeria’s goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Dele Aiyenugba (Bnei Yehuda) and Austin Ejide (Hapoel Petach Tikvah), Ivory Coast goalkeeper Aristide Zogbo (Maccabi Netanya) as well as Zambian midfielder William Njovu (Hapoel Kiryat Shmona) and striker Emmanuel Mayuka (Maccabi Tel Aviv).