The people of Togo are passionate about soccer, and there are several soccer leagues in
the country. Togo's national team has qualified for the final stages of the last two
African Nations Cup competitions. Their most spectacular victory was in February 98,
when they defeated Ghana 2-1. While the game was being played the whole nation was huddled
around TV sets and when the final whistle blew tens of thousands of people took to the
streets of the major towns dancing, singing and waving flags.
Several Togolese players earn a living as
professional footballers in Europe. The most successful of them is Bachiro Salou,
currently playing for Eintracht Frankfurt. Off the pitch Salou is softly spoken and shy,
but on it he is very different. He is over six feet tall, strongly built and terrifies
opponents with his speed, skill, physical strength and aggressive, but fair, tackling.
Wrestling is an important feature of
cultural life amongst the Kabye people of northern Togo. In days gone by all boys
were taught to wrestle and, as young men, they would take part in the Evala wrestling
festival as a way of proving their manhood: if a boy performed well he was strong enough
to fend for himself, and therefore ready for marriage. This festival, held in the northern
city of Kara every July, is still going strong, but is no longer the exclusive preserve of
the Kabye; young men come from all over West Africa to wrestle in the tournament.
Many of the contestants are members of the Togolese armed forces, where wrestling is part
of the training programme.
A large number of people play basketball
and handball, and the strong French influence has made cycling quite popular.
Most Togolese people are unable to swim
because outside upmarket hotels, there are only a few swimming pools in the country. Togo
does, however, have one world-class swimmer. His name is John Dagbovi Senakwami and he
represented Togo at the World Swimming Championships in Perth in 1998.
Photo by Mike Rimmer