Former Arsenal defender, Emmanuel Eboue has opened up about his life story to serve as a lesson for other African players.
Emmanuel Eboue’s story is akin to the adage, “Grace to grass”, from a man hailed not only for his abilities on the pitch but his monetary achievements too.
At the peak of his career with Arsenal, he became a fans’ favourite. He was part of the side that faced Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final which Arsenal lost.
His playing career is highlighted by the trophy he won at the National level when he helped Ivory Coast reach the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations Final. That joy, however, has been replaced by tears – and a deep fear of the future.
The former defender received millions of pounds in wages, lived in a mansion and drove flashy cars during his 7-year stay in England with Arsenal
The narrative of the once-hailed defender has changed as he spends his days hiding from bailiffs, sometimes sleeps on the floor of a friend’s home, travels by bus and even cleans his clothes by hand because he has no washing machine.
At 34 years, Emmanuel Eboue tells how his downfall has pushed him to the brink of suicide in an interview with the Sunday Mirror.
“I want God to help me,” he says. “Only he can help take these thoughts from my mind.”
The former Arsenal Defender openly and honestly in a bid to encourage others going through the same ordeal opened up to the Sunday Mirror
Eboue, currently unable to play football because of ill-health, disclosed during the interview that he has been pushed to the brink. He has:
*Lost a bitter divorce battle, with his wife Aurelie awarded all of their assets.
*Had to hide from cops and bailiffs after being ordered by a judge to transfer his remaining Enfield home to his wife.
*Faced a heartbreaking estrangement from his three kids, who he has not seen since June.
*Been grieving after the cancer death of grandfather Amadou Bertin – who raised him – and the loss of his brother N’Dri Serge, killed in a motorbike accident.
Not even his dream of a Premier League return is in sight as the hope he had of returning to PL with Sunderland was dashed last year after he was hit with a 12-month ban by FIFA after a dispute with a former agent.
Eboue fears that in the coming days, he will lose his place of abode after a deadline passed for him to surrender ownership of the North London home he used to share with Aurelie, his wife.
Not even his mansion which he bough during his playing career has been spared after the lawsuit – Aurelie has now put on the market.
Having surrendered the cars among assets transferred to his wife, Eboue now has an Oyster card and relies on London transport – while doing his best to avoid being recognised.
All the former Arsenal defender does now, is countdown, with his belongings in bags in hands, to the time when he will be sacked from his home
The worried star said: “I can’t afford the money to continue to have any lawyer or barrister.
“I am in the house but I am scared. Because I don’t know what time the police will come.
“Sometimes I shut off the lights because I don’t want people to know that I am inside. I put everything behind the door. “My own house. I suffered to buy my house but I am now scared.
“I am not going to sell my clothes or sell what I have. I will fight until the end because it is not fair.”
Eboue says he was never given guidance to manage his finances.
Insisting his wife looked after most of their affairs, he admits being “naive” with money.
He also claims negative advise from people he surrounded himself with also caused this.
He adds that he’s paying the price of his limited education revealing that he was mostly unaware of his financial situation. His handful of visits to the bank were with Aurelie.
Eboue even recalls an occasion when bank staff visited him – to sign paperwork – at Arsenal’s training ground.
And he now wants other young African footballers to learn from his mistakes.
He says: “I look back and say ‘Emmanuel, you have been naive… why didn’t you think about that before?’ It is hard.
“Very, very hard. The money I earned, I sent it to my wife for our children.
“In Turkey, I earned eight million euros. I sent seven million back home. Whatever she tells me to sign, I sign.
“She is my wife. The problems with FIFA were because of people advising me. People who are supposed to care. But it was because of them FIFA banned me.”
He splits his time between the Enfield house and the home of a confidante he calls his “sister”, Yasmin Razak.
He often sleeps on a mattress on her living room floor.
But even watching TV – and seeing the likes of former team-mate Thierry Henry as a football pundit – triggers negative thoughts.
He adds: “When I see Thierry I feel happy for him but ashamed of my own situation.
“When I see friends on TV that I played with or against I say to myself ‘I should still be there’. It’s hard to watch them.”
Both Yasmin and another close pal, ex-Portsmouth and Newcastle striker Lomana Lua Lua, have been crucial in helping Eboue stay afloat.
Of Yasmin, he said: “I call her house The Bunker. I can hide there. She has children. I don’t want to disturb them, so I sleep on the floor.”
Eboue is devastated at spending Christmas apart from his own kids, daughters Clara, 14, and Maeva, 12, and son Mathis, nine.
He goes on: “It hurts me a lot. They used to call me. But now, no contact. It pains me to be alone without them.”
Eboue has been left without so much as a washing machine.
But he won’t be beaten, saying: “Every day I wash my jeans, my clothes, everything. My hands are hard. As though I have been working on a farm.
“I thank my grandmother because she taught me to wash, cook, clean, everything as a young man.
“I continue to thank God. I have my life. I didn’t want what has happened. I don’t wish it on anybody.”
While Eboue wants to return to playing one day, he would jump at the chance of working with former club Arsenal or players’ union the PFA.