James Lawton: Ludicrous claims of innocence should only add to the length of Adebayor's ban
Adebayor's apology was lost when he said, "I don't know what I've done to be banned"
Tuesday 15 September 2009
If Emmanuel Adebayor had committed murder, rather than merely a grievous assault on the idea that some millionaire footballers have any idea of their duty, you might think he was angling for a plea of diminished responsibility.
How else to interpret his bizarre claim that he doesn't know what he has done to warrant suspension? However, the reality is that it really doesn't matter where he serves his ban – in a padded cell with plenty of white-coated attendants or some garden of reflection – the Football Association now have a clear responsibility of their own.
It is to consider the ban they first had in mind – four weeks is the consensus – and then double it, at least.
The imperative for this can only have been increased by the mess Uefa have made of their attempt to drive some kind of fear into the most shameless practitioners of the dive. Eduardo's escape yesterday, because of legal bungling, can only add strength to the idea that football, one way or another, is in desperate need of serious cleansing.
No doubt such action against Adebayor would be deemed draconian in some quarters, and especially by his manager Mark Hughes, who yesterday continued to insist that Adebayor's crimes were mostly the result of pressing emotion, were without malice, and had come with adequate apologies.
But then if the FA is in any slight doubt about the fact that the Manchester City and Togo striker did rather more than endanger the eyesight of his former team-mate Robin van Persie and then tease a section of admittedly rabid Arsenal fans, it may be helpful that the chief executive of their organisation was at the City of Manchester Stadium.
He was on hand to both see and feel what can only be described here as the sinister weight of one individual's absolute failure to control himself. Ian Watmore is already on the record with his view that the FA need to look at Adebayor's pitch-long run of celebration almost into the teeth of the Arsenal fans "in the cold light of day". Such an admirable resolve has, surely, to be heightened by Adebayor's declaration that he has already exhausted the limits of his repentance.
He did this, we have to presume, with his brief apology on Match of the Day. It was atonement which later lost a lot of its meaning, if it had any in the first place, when he declared, "I don't know what I have done to get banned. I heard that a steward got injured and I regret that. I have apologised to Robin van Persie.
"It was silly to run up in the face of the Arsenal fans. But those people had been insulting me all game. I didn't plan it. I didn't know I would score." Every one of those few empty-headed words underline the point of a substantial ban for Adebayor. He didn't so much bring football into disrepute as something close to dangerous anarchy, and if it is true that Adebayor was not the sole culprit, and that if Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger was saddened by what he saw from his former player he could have saved some of his disapproval for one or two of his own players, there is no doubt it was the man from Togo who took an otherwise brilliant game most closely to a riot.
Watmore is certainly well placed to tell his colleagues something that might have not have been quite so obvious on the screen. It was that before the end of the game Adebayor seemed utterly convinced that everything was about his feelings, his vindication and, most of all, his stored-up resentments.
The FA need to punish Adebayor hard if they do indeed believe that a huge old point that has never been more relevant to the game's civilised order is not to be buried perhaps for ever.
It is that football is ultimately doomed if it is ever accepted that players are able to believe, even for one emotional moment, that they have earned, along with their millions, the right to express themselves in any way they please.
No, Adebayor wasn't the only bad apple in a sweet barrel. The old tensions of the Emirates dressing room were spilling around us from the first whistle. Nicklas Bendtner and Van Persie snapped at Adebayor and it is also true that the Dutchman might easily have been given a red card for the two-footed lunge that immediately preceded his former team-mate's sickening stamp.
Adebayor could also plead that the baiting of the section of the Arsenal support he eventually confronted had been relentless.
But he cannot make this mitigation at the expense of any failure to understand that he is a professional, a hugely rewarded one whose wages are in part so extravagant because of the fans desire to invest in their team with their idea of support and, with increasingly frequency, their most rancid prejudices.
This is where the FA are obliged to make a stand, just as they were when Manchester United's Eric Cantona went over the wall at Selhurst Park and assaulted an invective-wielding Palace fan. Adebayor claims that he is ignorant of any crime warranting suspension, and when he does this he condemns himself.
At times he played beautifully in City's 4-2 win. He was full of life and invention and extraordinary skill and in these qualities he had the capacity to win any argument he had in mind. Instead, he dragged down both himself and a magnificent match. He proclaimed he was more important than anyone or anything around him.
It was a dismal statement from a player who had already shown the ability to light up the sky and it deserves censure beyond the norm. Anything less and it will not just be Emmanuel Adebayor faced with that suspicion of diminished responsibility.
Serena's fury lacked the strategy of McEnroe
The outburst of Serena Williams as she surrendered her US title came a little too late in the piece to be properly bracketed with the hell-mongering of John McEnroe.
McEnroe, of course, reacted as Williams did to the perceived incompetence of officials but, by one reckoning at least, there was almost invariably more of a strategic point.
An American sports psychologist, after studying sport's ultimate disturbance, concluded: "It is quite wrong to believe that McEnroe gets so competitively tense he looks ready to burst. Really, the opposite is true. McEnroe has quite a high threshold for feeling the worst effects of competition. When he makes a fuss it is not to relieve his tension and the fact that his opponent is often distracted is simply a bonus.
"McEnroe's problem is that he has to get himself aroused. He has to stoke up his emotions because really he is not that competitive. If you got right down to it, I'm sure he would admit that really it is not so important that he wins. Quite simply he has to talk himself into it."
It's an intriguing theory perhaps not entirely demolished by John McEnroe Senior, a New York Fifth Avenue lawyer, who once confided that it was hell at home when junior lost a game of checkers.
Acts of great bravery shine out in these embattled days
These days there is a temptation to believe that anyone involved in high level competitive sport must necessarily jettison his or her finer feelings, that to have a thought for your rivals is to surrender the ultimate edge of unbroken focus.
Of course it is not true but then in these days of Blood and Crashgate it is good to be reminded from, literally, the highest authority. Norman Croucher, the climber who, despite losing both legs in a road accident, mastered the great Himalayan peak Cho Oyu (26,906ft), reports a growing tide of nominations for the Alpine Club's Spirit of Mountaineering award.
The award was founded in 2007 at the prompting of Croucher and his friend Doug Scott, the first English conqueror of Everest. They had been increasingly disturbed by the incidence of stricken climbers being left to their fate because rescue attempts would have interfered with individual ambitions.
The current holders are Simon Anthamatten, from Switzerland, Alexey Bolov, Russia, Don Bowie, Canada, Horia Calibasanu, Romania, Ueli Steck, Switzerland and Denis Urubko, Kazakhstan.
They came together on Annapurna to risk their lives – and their ambitions – in a vain but bravely protracted attempt to rescue the Spanish alpinist Inaki Ochoa de Olza.
De Olza's brother Pablo says: "They are an example to all the rest of us. They had a real hard time of it, no romanticism in it at all... terrible conditions, lots of snow, no food, no proper gear. They risked their lives over and over. My family will always be indebted to them, a bill we will never be able to pay. But one thing we can do. We can tell anyone who will listen who they are and what they did... and that we do."
To which, the least and perhaps the most we can say in these embattled days is surely Amen.
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