ADEBAYOR INSPIRING TOGO ON AND OFF THE FIELD

While undoubtedly in the twilight of his career, Emmanuel Adebayor showed in Togo’s opening two games at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations the attributes that once made him one of the continent’s top players. Having enjoyed a career spanning 15 years at the highest level, the veteran striker is currently a free agent and will have impressed watching clubs with his performances in Gabon.

After being released by English Premier League side Crystal Palace at the end of last season, Adebayor was close to returning to French Ligue 1 with Lyon. However, his intention to represent Les Eperviers at the Cup of Nations did not find favour with the French club and they decided against offering him a contract.

This left the 33-year-old without a club, and although he has kept fit by playing in informal matches back home in Togo, he decided that this would be insufficient preparation for Africa’s top competition. “If I feel that I am not ready to go to the competition, I will not,” he said in November. “This is a national team and it must go to the Africa Cup of Nations with players who are fit and ready. Maybe I will go to support my team-mates, but not to play.”

Yet, such is the standing of the former Arsenal, Manchester City and Real Madrid player within the national team that coach Claude Le Roy not only called him up for the tournament, but gave him a place in the starting line-up – not to mention the captain’s armband. And although Togo failed to win either of their opening two matches – drawing 0-0 with Côte D’Ivoire and losing 3-1 to Morocco – Adebayor played a big part in keeping his team in contention for a place in the next round ahead of their final group match. Les Eperviers go into that game, against Congo DR, knowing that a two-goal win will see them through, irrespective of the outcome of the other match

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