When an athlete leaves their sport, it’s either because they’re retiring, they’re injured, or, more rarely, they simply don’t want to play any more. Any way they go, though, the vast majority of athletes disappear into the ether - there’s some that go into broadcasting, sure, and some stay involved in the game behind the scenes. But for the most part, they just, well, they just become people - they find other things to do with their time and energy, and they’re by and large never heard from again.
Unfortunately, sometimes when you hear about them post-career, it’s bad news. Alcoholism, legal troubles, or similar struggles are not uncommon, and now we have a story like that hitting close to home, or at least close to Arsenal-home.
Emmanuel Eboue hasn’t in fact retired - he is contracted with Türk Ocağı Limasol in the Turkish Super League. He is, however, in no small amount of trouble right now, thanks to a combination of some very bad financial advice, some injury troubles, and some mental health challenges. He’s completely broke, living on a friend’s living room floor, and waiting for the English courts to seize his house.
This is the point in the story where most people say “BUT HE MADE MILLIONS OF POUNDS HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE COME ON HOW STUPID ARE YOU WITH MONEY IF YOU ARE BROKE RIGHT NOW THAT’S ON YOU”. And that’s an understandable reaction. But Emmanuel Eboue, when he signed his big Premier League contracts, was a 20 year old kid with zero formal education, who grew up without any money whatsoever, and was all of a sudden pulling down six figure paychecks every two weeks.
Any kid in that situation is going to be overwhelmed, and is going to need good advice. Most kids get that advice, be it from family or teammates with good financial advisors or whatever; Eboue, apparently, did not. He sent most of his money to his wife, and whether it was his wife of the “string of bad financial advisors” he had, he was soon in way over his head, financially.
His wife eventually filed for divorce, and got most of Eboue’s assets; he now lives, as mentioned, on the floor of a friend of his, and his last remaining asset - the house he bought in London with his wife - is in the process of being foreclosed upon. Additionally, he had a fight with one of his former agents that led to a 12 month ban from FIFA, during which time his mental health deteriorated as the full weight of where his life had gone began to hit him very hard.
He is able to play again - he signed for Sunderland before signing in Turkey - but he did not play for Sunderland at all, and hasn’t played for Türk Ocağı Limasol yet either. His career is essentially over, and he’s having to face the reality of his situation full-time now. Eboue isn’t making any sort of public plea for financial assistance - he knows that his mess is his, and that he needs to dig his way out. He’s trying to get a job - coaching, youth development, whatever - with a team, and he’s also trying to be a person that young, naive footballers can turn to for advice.
He wants to be in a position where kids can learn from his mistakes, understand the pitfalls of the life they’re in, and work with them to ensure that they are set up for success as they move forward with their careers. And if he can get to that point, it may be that all he’s been through is worth it; I’m just really sad he had to go through it, because he was a really fun player to watch.
Fortunately, things with Eboue might be starting, ever so slowly, to turn around; Galatasaray have offered him a job as under-14 assistant coach. Hopefully this will be the first step towards him regaining his mental health, and from that foundation build a good life for himself once again.