Adebayor deserves everything he gets
Talking of the moment he snapped and leapt the barriers of Selhurst Park to plant his studs in the chest of a gobby fan who had been hurling abuse in his direction, Eric Cantona recalls that he had heard the same sort of rubbish hundreds, if not thousands of times before.
Usually, he says, he ignored it. Usually, he says, he rose above it all, as you have to do as a footballer given the torrents of filth that head in your direction from the stands. But on this occasion, for some reason he has never quite fathomed, something went. It was almost physical, he says, like a curtain coming down in front of his eyes. He remembers, literally, seeing red.
There were a lot of people who sympathised with him back in the nineties when he transgressed so publicly. What he did was stupid, it entirely broke the unwritten rules separating the field of play from the supporters, he deserved swift and draconian punishment.
But still a lot of us understood. Hey, how would you have behaved in the same situation? Or if someone had spewed insult in your face on the street? Can you be sure you would have maintained a beatific calm? Similarly Zinedine Zidane’s head butt on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final elicited a lot of sympathy: it was insane, it was self-destructive, it was ridiculous, maybe ultimately it cost his team the greatest of all trophies. But it was also a split second thing. It was a human reaction. Clearly a little too human.
So why, then, is it so hard to extend the same understanding to Emmanuel Adebayor after his little performance at the City of Manchester stadium on Saturday? Given the taunting that has headed in his direction from Arsenal fans for some time now (including a lengthy period when he was turning out in a red shirt) who could blame him for his sprint across the turf?
Besides, unlike Cantona or Zidane, he made no contact with those who had been insulting him. He merely knelt in front of them and nodded pointedly. The injury to the unfortunate City steward came because those who had baited him so relentlessly found it hard to swallow his little bit of pantomime revenge. It was they who caused the physical harm, not him. It was they who introduced the violence to the scene. And if that was all Adebayor did on Saturday, then frankly, anyone with a heart might have saluted him for it. You called my mum a whore, well actually chaps I’ve just scored: there’s something cathartic about that.
Except that wasn’t all he did on Saturday. If it was, few could genuinely have condemned him. He claimed in his disingenuous apology after the game that he had acted entirely spontaneously, that he had no idea it might happen. Unfortunately, his actions on the day suggest he knew precisely what he was doing.
From the moment he came out on the pitch, he appeared to have declared a one-man war on his old club, the club that had – through careful nurture and excellent coaching – turned him into the superstar he now is. Remember without Arsenal, and particularly Arsene Wenger, he wouldn’t be earning £130,000 a week. Yet, his memory seems rather short.
He treated his former team mates – those with whom got on as well as those with whom he had feuded – with a contempt that was not pleasant to watch. He slapped faces, he sneered, he mouthed off. In short, from the word go he was looking to take revenge for perceived slights during his time at the Emirates.
Revenge that reached its nadir with his assault on Robin van Persie. The more you watch his stamp in the Dutchman’s face, the more clear it becomes that it was deliberate, it was calculated, it was callous. Moreover it was extraordinary none of the officials recognised it as such and that he stayed on the pitch.
It is in that context his celebration has to be viewed. It was not a red mist moment. It was not sudden impulse. It was part of a deliberately pre-planned campaign against the club that nurtured him, a campaign which, with the stamp on Van Persie, took him went way beyond the boundaries of wider sympathy.
The shame is, Mark Hughes, the decent, thoughtful, intelligent manager who took a chance on Adebayor, who was prepared to allow him a second chance to prove that his talent outweighed his hot-headedness, has been deprived of the striker for his appointment at Old Trafford on Sunday. Already shorn by injury of Robinho, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz, Hughes really needed Adebayor to be there.
Now, thanks to a pitifully self-indulgent display of stroppery, the Togo international will be absent, thus hugely undermining the group effort at City. As such, no-one can have the remotest sympathy with him. The idiot deserves to have the book thrown at him.