‘Have you ever played that game Metal Gear Solid the Phantom Pain?’ the slightly younger of the 2 men said
‘No, why do you ask?’
‘It’s unreal, hands down one of my favourite games of all time. In it you get to build this big oil rig and turn it into a base, and go off doing missions from it’ the younger man continued as the older man let him explain his love for this computer game.
‘I still don’t understand why that’s got anything to do with why we’re here of all places though’ the older man said ‘It’s literally the middle of nowhere’
‘That’s exactly why we’re here! In the game, they go to The Seychelles, build the base, kicked ass and became heroes. Do you not listen to me when I told you why I’m doing this?’ The older of the 2 nodded, reluctantly, before adding ‘Yes, but surely there’s more, I don’t know, glamorous places? Or places where you’re not literally starting at the bottom?
‘That’s the beauty of it. I want to start here, I want there to be no fan fare, no un-needed attention, and I want to restart my career. If I ever go back to America, I want it to be as a winner, a champion, a great manager, not a has been player that buckled to the hype and couldn’t hack it’. With that the younger man reached into his hand luggage and pulled out a book, and carried on reading Feet of the chameleon.
The younger of the men is Freddy Adu, you know him, of course you do. You may not, probably not, have ever seen him play. You know him because he was an absolute beast on Champ Man 04 & 05. Quite literally the best player in either game he was your go to guy on either edition for complete domination.
Breaking records for fun at DC United in America, he was labelled the next Pele. He was sent to Real Salt Lake and did well, earning a move to Portugal’s biggest team, Benfica. He flirted with the first team, but never made much of an impact. Various loans around Europe followed, as did getting released, before he found his way back to the MLS with Philadelphia. A short stay there lasted 8 months before he went south to Brazil. Again he didn’t do much there, and Europe called again for yet more short term deals. Blackpool in England, Stabaek in Norway, Alkmaar in Holland & Jagodina in Serbia all offered trials, but no permanent deals were signed. After an unsuccessful spell in Tampa Bay in Florida, Freddy came to the heart wrenching conclusion that his career as a player has been somewhat unsuccessful, ,and that he has decided to call it a day at 27.
He puts his lack of progression down to the overwhelming hype of his playing ability, the fact that 2 editions of the game Championship Manager made him the best player in the world also didn’t help. There was talent there for sure, Benfica and Man United don’t come calling unless a player has some talent, but when the stadiums are full of people there to see one person every game, this happening from when he was as young as 13 no less, really put a strain on him.
By the time he was in Portugal he was confident, but the weight of the world was on his shoulders. Afraid to shoot in case he missed and was criticised, unwilling to receive passes in case he mis-controlled them, not even calling for the ball in most games and gradually being overlooked put his playing career in free fall. Simple tap ins were put wide, outmuscled on the ball, blocked off it and generally lacking in confidence also played a part.
After a self-imposed exile back to his country of birth, Ghana, to collect his thoughts, be alone and decide on the next steps, a sudden realisation hits home. Here he’s a no one. He’s not Freddy Adu superstar in waiting, he’s just Freddy. He’s not the young sensation destined for Man United, Barcelona or AC Milan, he’s just the guy that lives at the end of the road and trains 5 days a week.
From the minute he landed back at a relatives house in Tema, he’s finally been able to be himself and not have to worry about what people think about him or his talent. It’s during this time he’s decided on the next steps.
Despite it becoming the most despised competition in European football due to the African Cup of Nations, there is a massive misunderstanding and a lack of respect for African football from the wider footballing world.
This is the journey of Freddy Adu, once touted as the next big thing but failed to live up to the hype, as he steps away from playing and transitions into the wide world of football management.