Moustapha Salifou admits he remains deeply traumatised by the terrorist attack on the Togo team bus last month.
The Aston Villa midfielder, who was speaking publicly for the first time about the moment gunmen opened fire on the Togo players, revealed he has been waking up in the middle of the night “dreaming that somebody has been shooting me”.
“We didn’t see anybody, we just heard the shooting,” Salifou recalled. “There was a gunfight outside the bus for 20 minutes. The attackers shot the driver and after two or three minutes all the players had to lie on the floor and everyone was just crying.
“We had to wait for 30 minutes. I did not feel I would make it off that bus alive. We had to lie on the floor and the gunshots passed over our heads. To be honest, I was thinking everyone was going to die in the coach. But God saved us.
“When it was all over everyone was crying. We had to crawl out of the bus and I looked down and there was blood on the floor. We were all taken to hospital. My friend was shot. He said to me: ‘If I die now, who is going to look after my kids?’ Everybody started to cry again.”
Salifou believes, however, that there could have been more casualties had the bus carrying the players’ kit not overtaken the one on which the squad were travelling as they entered the Cabinda.
“When we crossed the border into Angola we swapped places as we drove into the forest,” he explained. “If that had not happened there would have been more deaths. The rebels attacked the wrong coach first.
“The terrorists were in front of us and shooting. Our security men shot back and told us to get down. My friend was shot because he was not sitting down when it started. He was dancing and one of the other guys was taking photos. The security men told us to stop screaming. If we made a noise the terrorists would know we were still alive. So we lay there in the quiet and we prayed.”
Salifou has suffered psychological damage and admitted that he is unable to forget the moment when the bus was ambushed.
“I am finding it difficult to sleep at night. I am waking up at about three or four in the morning. I’ve been dreaming that somebody has been shooting at me.”
The Confederation of African Football has since banned Togo from the next two tournaments following their decision to withdraw from the event in Angola, although Salifou believes that the punishment is unfair.
“They treat us like they have because we are a small country,” he said. “If it had been Cameroon or the Ivory Coast, nobody is going to say they are banned from two African Nations Cups. I believe that we are appealing the decision, though.”
“I feel so much for the people who have died and been injured,” he said. “I have to move on from this but it is not easy. I have been training and I watched the Carling Cup semi-final against Blackburn and the Arsenal game last week.
“Everyone has supported me and I would like to thank them. This makes me even more determined to start playing football again.”