The Persecution of Emmanuel
They call it the Beautiful Game.
On Sunday, 25th February 2007 Arsenal played Chelsea in the final of the Football League Cup (also known as the Carling Cup). By all accounts, this meeting between these two London-based clubs in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium proved to be a tempestuous affair. Chelsea prevailed by two goals to one, but the match will be remembered for reasons other than being the first time that two London-based teams met in the final.
Theo Walcott opened the scoring with his first goal for Arsenal,while Chelsea's Didier Drogba scored both of their goals. In a testament to the international nature of modern soccer, Drogba was one of four players from the Ivory Coast to take to the field that day.
Football matches normally last for ninety minutes, with extra time added on to compensate when play is stopped due to injuries received. This game was extended by twelve minutes: Seven minutes of stoppage time were added to the match when John Terry was kicked in the jaw by Abou Diaby in the second half, rendering him unconscious. A further five minutes injury time was added following a fracas that resulted in Kolo Touré, John Obi Mikel, and Emmanuel Adebayor being sent off for violent conduct with Frank Lampard and Cesc Fàbregas being booked for unsporting behaviour.
After the initial bookings of Toure and Mikel, referee Howard Webb consulted with an assistant referee, and Adebayor was sent off, allegedly over striking Wayne Bridge. Adebayor was irate and had to be calmed down as he was escorted off the field.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was incensed at what he considered unjust treatment of Adebayor after he was dismissed for violent conduct originally thought to be against Chelsea player Frank Lampard, himself the recipient of a yellow card. "We know (Adebayor) did not deserve a red card," said Wenger. "The linesman lies when he says (Adebayor) punched Lampard. What the linesman said is really lies." The Football Association pointed out subsequently that referee Webb had sent off Adebayor for allegedly shoving Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho and for generally aggressive behaviour.
After the game, Bridge told reporters that he had been punched by Emmanuel Eboué - not Adebayor, whom he suspected to be a victim of mistaken identity. The next day Arsenal and Chelsea submitted claims for wrongful dismissal of Adebayor and Mikel, respectively, to the Football Association. The Association denied both appeals, also stating that Adebayor's claim "was not a claim for mistaken identity." The FA statement has charged Arsenal and Chelsea misconduct concerning their inability to control their players and incursions by both managers onto the pitch. Eboué was charged with violent conduct for striking Bridge, receiving a three game ban; Adebayor was charged for his behavior after being sent off.
In all, three red cards and seven yellow cards were served on players during the match. Bizarrely, the match was also marred by incidents of Chelsea fans throwing celery at Arsenal players.
Those of you who know me personally will be surprised that I am expressing any interest whatsoever in a game of football. The thing that sparked my interest was a picture taken by Nigel Roddis of Reuters which accompanied match reports. A beautifully framed piece, it looked not unlike one of Michelangelo's religiously-themed works. It features saintly Emmanuel Eboué in a beseeching pose beside the stricken Wayne Bridge as Good Samaritan Didier Drogba seeks to calm him. Menacingly in the background, José Mourinho strides towards the protagonists doing his level best to look like a Roman centurion intent on a spot of martyring. I just had to bring it to your attention.