Adebayor still bears the scars from Togo tragedy
Emmanuel Adebayor wants to be loved. That makes it hard to explain his decision to join Tottenham Hotspur, whose supporters have abused him for scoring against them regularly and often, particularly for Arsenal – but he has come through far worse ordeals.
He survived an armed attack on the Togo team bus in Angola during the 2010 African Cup of Nations in which team-mates were wounded and officials lost their lives and so has a better perspective than most on football’s place in the scheme of things.
“When you realise that I was one minute from passing away, it’s all nothing,” he said. “I tell myself: ‘Adebayor, just live your life.’ People got shot two seats in front of me. When you have been through those things, you’re another person.
“On the eighth of January 2010 it could have been Adebayor gone, finished, over. In Madrid last season there were games I wasn’t playing, but I was just enjoying life, laughing when I came on because I was a footballer and I had a chance to play.
“When you’re younger and you haven’t been through things, you don’t understand. If I’m told to sit on the bench I’ll be happy to.
“We woke up on 8 January, we were going to the African Cup of Nations, we were singing on the bus, we ended up carrying a dead body back home. Playing only 10 minutes, being on the bench, those things are nothing.”
Adebayor, who joined Manchester City after three-and-a-half seasons at Arsenal, is no longer part of City manager Roberto Mancini’s plans, and is on a season-long loan at White Hart Lane after a similar arrangement with Real Madrid last season.
“I want to feel love again and I had a good discussion on the phone with the boss, Harry Redknapp, and he showed me the ambition, where the club wanted to go to,” Adebayor said. “I’m here and very happy. I’m loved by my team-mates and I love all the players.”
Today he will find out how 30,000 more people feel about him as he makes his home debut against Liverpool in front of fans who, as recentlyas April’s Champions’ League tie against Real, targeted him with chants described as having racist undertones by Kick It Out, the anti-racist group.
He feels no animosity. “It’s forgiven,” he said. “If I didn’t forgive anyone, I wouldn’t be wearing the Tottenham shirt today. If I score a couple of goals, they will be singing my name again. Fans are sometimes funny but those are the ones that make the game interesting.
“It’s football, the fans are passionate about it. They were upset because I was scoring goals against Tottenham [10 in 14 matches]. Today I play for them, we have to love each other and work in the same direction.”
In a fortnight that will mean facing Arsenal, having already roused the ire of his former fans with an extravagant celebration after scoring against them for Manchester City at Eastlands.
“I had the chance to play for Arsenal, I had a fantastic moment, they made me one of the best strikers in the world. But you have to move on.
“What happened at Man City was a big mistake. I regret doing that – not scoring, but my celebration. But, trust me, if I have to score against Arsenal again, I will do it. I’m a footballer, I have to be a professional on the pitch.”
However, Adebayor admits that he fell out with Mancini, and his time at City ended with him and Craig Bellamy, now with today’s opponents, so far out of favour that they trained with the youth team.
“They asked us to do that as a punishment but we did it in a positive way. Today [Bellamy] is with Liverpool and I wished him the best of luck. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to exchange his shirt. But if they’ve lost… If I’m not happy maybe I can keep things in for a couple of days, but Bellamy can’t keep it in for one minute.”
He would have stayed with Real if an offer had been made. “Politically Madrid is difficult, and it’s not just one man,” he said. “If it was up to [Jose] Mourinho I could be there now, because I’m happy what I did there last season. But he’s not the person who can decide. He can ask, and I think he did, but he gave me the advice to come to Tottenham and I have huge respect for him.”
He likens Redknapp to Mourinho in his man-management, and revealed that Redknapp promised to do everything in his power to keep Spurs competitive by retaining Luka Modric. Adebayor scored on his Spurs debut – as he did for Arsenal, City and Real – at Wolves eight days ago and believes that a top-four finish is possible, as is extending his stay.
“I’ve got to enjoy myself and then there is a [chairman], manager and the fans – everyone will decide if they want to keep me for another year. As a player you always want to stay at a club where you have fun, but I still belong to Man City and who knows, if I finish top scorer in the League, City will call me back. Sometimes football can be very funny. At the end of the season we’ll see – I’ll be more than happy to stay here.”
That could be connected to his becoming a father, adding to responsibilities he has taken on in Africa. He has paid to rebuild a school and two hospitals in Togo and backed a drinking water scheme in Ghana. “We always have to give something back,” he said. “I come from one of the smallest countries in the world to where I am today and I’m blessed. I started from a place where I didn’t even have any boots, today I have everything I wanted. I’ve played in all the big games around Europe.
“I’ve worked hard, but you need luck as well to be there at the right moment, and without self-belief, with all that happened after I left Arsenal, I wouldn’t have kept going. People try to criticise you or write some stuff on my Twitter, but it gives me motivation. It means these people have taken time and they have respect and love for you. When there is no message from anyone on Facebook or Twitter, then I’ll start panicking. Then I’ll know the love is gone.”
Tags: Emmanuel Adebayor