Togo/Congo-Kinshasa: Adebayor Fights Back Tears As Togo Exits

(file photo)
26 January 2017

Emmanuel Adebayor was biting his bottom lip as he left the pitch at the end of the Tuesday's African Nations Cup match against the Democratic Republic of Congo in Port Gentil, his Togo team eliminated after picking up a solitary point from their three games.

"I've never cried on the football pitch but I came close. I was fighting back the tears."

The opposition had lined up a guard of honour at the entrance to the tunnel and, in scenes more common place on the rugby pitch, clapped Adebayor off as he made his way slowly through the middle, clasping each of the Congolese in a bear hug and offering his thanks.

"Youssuf Mulumbu, their captain, is a good friend of mine and he came after the match and told me they were going to make the guard for me. I was touched, really. It shows the respect I have earned in Africa and what I have done for the game on the continent."

Congo's motivation, not only in recognition of Adebayor's status, was in anticipation of an end to an international career that began when the lanky striker was still a gawky teenager.

His has been a talismanic influence on the small west African country whose qualification for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany remains one of football's most unlikely achievements. It is a small slither of land, sandwiched between the powerhouses of Ghana and Nigeria, and with a population of around 7 million.

But for Adebayor this did not feel like the end. "I'm not sure about whether I am going to stop playing for Togo. It is my country and I will also defend it.  I'm an icon for them. I don't know. I feel like I'm the captain of the boat and I'm not sure it is time yet to jump out."

Adebayor will be 33 next month but the paucity of playing resources for his country means he will likely still be their best forward when they begin in June the qualifiers for the next Nations Cup in 2019.

Adebayor – Sheyi to his compatriots, Manu to friends – came through almost three full games at the tournament not having played regularly since his loan spell at Crystal Palace ended at the conclusion of the last Premier League season and his contract with parent club Tottenham Hotspur ran out.

"Now I just want to go home and see my family and relax. Then I will be speaking to my manager."

A return at club level is on the cards, but to where he would not reveal. "There is a lot of interest from all over the world, but you (reporters) would know better than me," he said. But England would seem a favourite destination:  "You know how much I love the Premier League even though I am not the most loved player in England. I have done it for the last 10 years in the Premier League.

"I didn't come here to Gabon to search for a club. I came here to play and represent my country and I think I've done that quite well.

"Now let's take it step by step and see how it goes."

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