The latest development in the Adebayor saga occurred last week as Spurs reported that he had been given indefinite compassionate leave to return to Togo for private reasons. While this news undoubtedly further frustrated many fans, it has to be mentioned that Adebayor has been through extremely traumatic times in recent years and is possibly a troubled individual.
Metz, Monaco, Arsenal, Man City, Real Madrid and now Spurs have all seen the talent that Emmanuel Adebayor possesses. He is often talked about as one of the world’s most devastating forwards when he is playing to his potential. Unfortunately, this type of form has eluded him for most of his career. Instead he is remembered for the less flattering events; sprinting the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of Arsenal fans when playing for Man City, on pitch fighting with then teammate Nicklas Bendtner and openly criticising Andre Villas-Boas in front of the Spurs dressing room. Those are just a handful of the controversial parts.
Most fans of the teams he has played for have quickly become demoralised by what appears as lacklustre performances. It is understandable when he has often been one of the highest earners at his respective clubs. On the other hand, something that is not mentioned enough within the Adebayor debate is the coach attack on the Togo national team in 2010. Adebayor was on the coach which gunman fired upon where he saw his friends wounded and killed. He described it as “one of the worst experiences of my life”, yet he carried on. As the highest profile and more experienced players, he was the spokesman; he had to re-tell the anguish time after time. This must have been a harrowing experience and he continued to play football, performing at the highest level. For a lot of people it would have been too much.
As footballers earn an extremely high salary, some believe they are expected to be immune from the disruptive elements of life. ‘I bet his bank balance helps’ – this is a favourite expression from fans when the words ‘stress’ or ‘low confidence’ are mentioned. Whether this is a fair observation or not, mental health should always be considered. It was never spoken if Adebayor had therapy after the coach incident. Of course it is a highly sensitive matter so it is entirely possible it took place and it was simply not publicised. However, mental health needs remain the last taboo in football.
Measures have been taken to tackle homophobia but mental health does not seem to have the same profile. In the testosterone-filled dressing rooms up and down the country, speaking about a mental health issue is still seen as just being weak. This is despite such horrific stories where players have suffered in silence. Gary Speed’s death shook the football world and those closest to him surely asked themselves whether they could have done more to help him.
If Adebayor is having issues then he needs the courage to confront any demons he may have. However us as football fans need to remember that players are human; they are as fallible as the rest of us.
By Dan Williams – @