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Football | Afcon

Emmanuel Adebayor (R) © Action Images

Adebayor key to Togo's Cup campaign



Any chance the tiny west African nation of Togo have of extricating themselves from the toughest of all the opening Afcon groups increased dramatically with Emmanuel Adebayor's late change of heart to play.

The talismanic Tottenham striker may only be 28, but he has retired more times than Frank Sinatra.

Two months ago he announced yet another withdrawal from the international scene, but not before he had scored the only goal in Togo's shock friendly win over fellow qualifiers Morocco in Casablanca.

Adebayor's decision was based on the perennial issues of unpaid player bonuses, and team security.

Security is an understandable issue for Adebayor, who was on the Togo team bus which came under machine gun attack days before the start of the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola from separatists seeking independence for the oil-rich Cabinda enclave.

Two members of the Togo entourage were killed.

Adebayor only relented, apparently, following a little bit of gentle arm-twisting from his country's President Faure Gnassingbe.

Needless to say, the lanky striker's presence in South Africa was warmly received in the Togo camp.

"It's very important to have him with us, he's our best player and the captain of our team. Drogba and all the stars will be there and Adebayor too," beamed Togolese Football Federation president Gabriel Ameyi.

The 'will he won't he' Nations Cup soap opera took another twist last week, when reports emerged from Togo that he had had yet another change of heart, apparently upset at changes to the squad list announced by his country's federation.

Thankfully for the Togolese, Spurs confirmed to AFP that he was indeed intending to join his country after playing in Saturday's 0-0 draw at Queens Park Rangers.

While his New Year's Day goal against Reading was only his second of the season for Tottenham he has proved a prolific scorer for the Sparrow Hawks.

Adebayor, who chose to play for his country of birth rather than Nigeria, proved his worth in a qualifier against Gabon as he snatched a late equaliser in Libreville and struck the opening goal in a 2-1 win in Lome.

Togo's fortune is Tottenham's misfortune, even though Spurs coach Andre Villas-Boas had granted the player carte blanche over whether to stay in north London or travel to South Africa.

Adebayor scored 18 goals in all competitions when on loan with Tottenham from Manchester City in the 2011-2012 season, and that showing was rewarded with a three-year permanent deal signed last August.

He was introduced to the Premier League in 2006 when he moved from Monaco to Arsenal, staying with Arsene Wenger's team until a 29-million-euro transfer to City in 2009.

But he fell out of favour there, with coach Roberto Mancini preferring a system based around Carlos Tevez, and was loaned to Real Madrid in the 2011 January transfer window, before his switch to Spurs.

For Adebayor, who played at the 2006 World Cup, and his teammates the Nations Cup in South Africa represents an opportunity to draw a line under the horror of the Cabinda attack, which has scarred Adebayor for life.

"I am still haunted by what I witnessed during this horrible afternoon on the Togo team bus. It's a moment I will never forget and that I never want to relive," he says.

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