It’s a feature of human nature that we are quick, in the heat of the moment, to see our point of view over another’s. However, the mature person is able to see, after some introspection, the extent to which he is culpable.
Professional athletes often lack this maturity.
The lore of Emmanuel Adebayor includes tales of playing football barefoot on dirt fields as a youth in his homeland of Togo. When he first donned an Arsenal kit, he was quick with a smile, and, though gangly and awkward, soon found his way into the first team. An away goal at Old Trafford in a 1-0 victory put him in the hearts of many Gooners, and after his mentor and goal-celebration dance partner, Thierry Henry, left for the Blaugrana, it was Ade who was to strike fear into opposing defenses in Henry’s stead.
But 30 goals in a season that saw Arsenal come agonizingly close to reclaiming the Premiership planted a sour seed in Adebayor’s agent’s mind. As Arsene Wenger would say in Ade’s defense, it was his agent who put Milan or Barca in his mind. It was the influence of others that turned a fan favorite into Greedybayor.
And while Wenger had no choice but to defend his star striker, he also doubled his wages in order to stave off continental suitors. And while this was certainly a sacrifice–at least financially–on the Togolese’s part, he never allowed himself to admit that supporters would need time and incentive to love him again. Because when rumors were coming thick and fast, Adebayor was conspicuously silent. It wasn’t until very late in the transfer window that he finally claimed undying loyalty to the Gunners’ cause.
But despite the fact that his goal celebration would newly include badge kissing in front of the home fans, he was still booed, and this led to his lack of effort on a weekly basis. Which, in turn, led to a lack of production, and subsequently a lack of camaraderie with his team. Because one thing that was evident at Eastlands on Saturday was that when Adebayor wants to play, he is the complete package. Whereas last season, his number of offsides was staggering, against Arsenal and with a newfound dedication, it was his work rate that impressed. Alongside Craig Bellamy, the City strikers gave a clinic in defending from the front. Fortuitous at times, and certainly on the back foot for a chunk of the game, City was lifted first by the Welshman and then by Adebayor, who must have loved the opportunity to score against his old team.
His celebration, however, involved sprinting to the opposite side of the pitch to taunt the Arsenal fans, by whom he was made to feel so aggrieved. And it was that marathon across the field that showed everyone that Adebayor is unwilling, and quite possibly unable, to acknowledge his part in all of this. No one at Arsenal, fans or otherwise, would ever argue that Adebayor is an exceptional talent with the ability to score practically at will. All Gunners fans would have wanted from Adebayor is for him to win back their affection with hard work and goals. In the opinion of a greedy, self-deceiving Togolese who forgot those barefoot days of his youth, that was simply too much to ask.
He can only hope that early form is a reliable indicator of the table come May.