Matching this would be a tall order.
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Heartless and bewildering decision to ban Togo from African Cup tops week of absurd stories

What with the way 2009 turned out - Tiger Woods and all that - sport's bizarre bar had been set high.

Matching this would be a tall order.

Never fear - 2010 has roared into life, the last week alone offering a series of crazy stories.

This run of the ridiculous starts with soccer's Africa Cup of Nations, where the organisers banned Togo for two tournaments after they pulled out of this year's event on the lame excuse their bus had been machine gunned by terrorists, with three people killed.

For boneheaded heartlessness this decision will never be beaten.

The African soccer mob which runs the tournament, CAF (which might stand for Callous and Foolish), should be ashamed. Absolutely no one understands or supports the ruling.

Initially the Togo soccer team bravely decided to remain in the tournament after the attack in an Angolan province which killed their assistant coach, media officer and the bus driver, as well as leaving others injured.

However, the Togo Government ordered the team to withdraw. The ban, and a $50,000 fine, was handed down because of what the CAF described as Government interference.

The worst butchering of a sports team, I believe, would have been at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, where terrorists slaughtered members of the Israeli team. The West Germans were caught short in their shambolic response. There was always something disconcerting about the way the Olympics carried on around the scene of the crime.

But for a sports authority to be so deliberately cold hearted, to go out of their way to be punitive against people who have been punished enough, is another matter altogether.

Togo need to be comforted in any and every way, not attacked again.

Whatever decisions are made in response to circumstances such as a terrorist attack, they are done by people under duress and for what they believe is the best. The Togo Government wanted the team home for an official mourning period.

So rule 8, subsection 5b was broken. If ever there was a time to cut someone a bit of slack, this is it. Officials capable of this cannot be relied upon to see any sense and do a u-turn.

The African soccer nations should rise up in protest. More importantly, Fifa, rulers of the world game, must intervene and set this right. If Fifa don't, they are culpable. Otherwise, this will remain another victory for the terrorists and terrorism.

ENGLISH soccer is reeling, having discovered that the national captain John Terry, who is married, has had an affair with the former girlfriend of Wayne Bridge, a one-time close friend, international teammate, and ex-Chelsea comrade.

This has led to a Sack John Terry frenzy.

Technically speaking, the key point here should be whether Bridge and Vanessa Perroncel were still an item when Terry and Perroncel were also furiously swapping body fluids.

The answer, from what I can make out is no, so Terry hasn't broken the most stringent of the unwritten rules that dictate what is acceptable for team harmony. If England wants to sack players on the basis of infidelity, they might hardly have a team left.

But Terry has hardly set the standard in team building exercises and the English fans, who are forever having their World Cup hopes crushed, can only despair at his outlandish irresponsibility.

As an English fan said to me: "You couldn't make this up." And this from a Coronation St fan, which says something about the scale of the Terry transgression.

Stranger still, three Manchester City teammates of Bridge unveiled "Team Bridge" undershirts, supplied by the club, in support of their mate. That's one way to increase the public humiliation for Bridge, who has said he will never comment about the scandal.

A pity his teammates didn't follow suit rather than inflict their morals of convenience, those based around manufacturing team morale, on soccer's paying public. Stick to soccer on the pitch lads.

AND SO to Shahid Afridi, the acting Pakistani cricket captain who has been banned for a mere two Twenty20 matches, having been caught cheating by tampering with the ball during a one-dayer in Perth by champing on it.

The International Cricket Council is increasingly toothless, and so will Afridi be unless he can give this strange habit up.

Ball tampering is a tricky area. To swing a cricket ball, you need a shiny and a rough side. Players are allowed to shine a cricket ball, yet aren't allowed to rough it up.

Traditionally, ball tampering has been a surreptitious activity performed in a manner which aims to avoid detection.

Afridi chose the most obvious way possible - unless you happened to have an industrial grinder on hand.

The man has form.

He once tampered with the pitch by doing an impersonation of Rudolf Nureyev on it. This is a man who would go shoplifting in a bulldozer.

Everything you have ever read about Afridi indicates he is as mad as a hatter. So how come Afridi is an international captain - only in Pakistan cricket being the obvious answer.

And we can add that Dermot Reeve, the coach of Central Districts and subject of suggestions he has lost the confidence of players, has suddenly been rested - we are told - because of an injury suffered while warming up.

The injury occurred on January 4.

A bizarre week.

* As an avowed Roger Federer fan, what a delight to see him at his best in crushing the Brit Andy Murray in the Australian Open final.

Why should we like Federer so much? For one, he is a true artist, the player of beautiful tennis in the age of power. He also looks so normal physique-wise without the pro-sport bulging muscles that are standard issue these days. Federer is one of us, but for his extraordinary skill and record.

As for the supposed pain of Britain's long Grand Slam drought, this is perhaps a media myth. The Britain most of us know doesn't give a stuff about tennis.

Sure, the Brits would love a new champion. The place is not exactly distraught without one though.

* A transport report states that Auckland might struggle to cope with crowds at the 2011 World Cup. Of course it does. Who would be stupid enough to write a report saying the city won't struggle - this would be tantamount to committing report-writing suicide.

Once the report surfaced, Mayor John Banks weighed in.

About $58 millon was being spent on the Eden Park precinct and thousands were expected to walk from the central city well ahead of game kick-offs, he said.

It would take about 30 minutes to walk to the ground from a central city hotel on widened footpaths and following improved signs.

"It'd be a great walk," said Banks.

Vincent St (highlighted by the Russian-style police headquarters), Pitt St (emergency services centre), K Rd (interesting in its own way), Great North Rd (car yards), Bond St (stunning overbridge), Sandringham Rd (petrol station) ... what a walk - although punters will need to move at a decent clip and with no interference for sub 30-minute times. As an alternative, try Dominion Rd, which has more of a New York hustle and bustle.

This column's recommendation though - give yourself a good 40 minutes, bearing the crowds in mind, and even longer if you intend checking out the motorcycle shop on Great North Rd.

Money can be saved on the signage though. The locals will lead the way and with all those thousands of people charging along footpaths the width of airport runways, it should be fairly obvious which way to go.