I have to do it. I have to mention...him. I have to mention the hype, the commercials, the appearances on TRL and 60 minutes, I have to mention the relationship with teen pop star JoJo. I have to mention the outrageous talent complete with scintillating speed and awe-inspiring flick and tricks.
However, I also have to mention the disappointment.
At 14, Ghanaian born Freddy Adu had done something that nobody had ever done before. Freddy Adu made soccer relevant in the United States.
On Jan. 16, 2004 Freddy Adu became the youngest American athlete in over 100 years to sign a major league pro contract in any team sport. He was chosen by D.C. United as the 1st overall pick in the 2004 MLS Super Draft.
Freddy Adu's mother had rejected offers from mega-clubs like Manchester United, Inter Milan, and Arsenal prior to the draft.
They hype machine revved its engines. Freddy Adu's face and charismatic personality was in full display as he appeared on commercials and several of posters. His name was constantly mentioned on national sports shows like ESPN's SportsCenter and radio. I even recall Freddy being one of the topic's of discussion on my favorite hip-hop radio station!
After being spoiled by the success of sports proteges such as Alex Rodriguez, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, expectations were high. However, there was no doubt that he would be able to exceed. With his talent how could he.
"His left foot is fantastic," Pele (yes, Pele) said of him during a commercial shoot they had together, "It's like Mozart. Mozart started when he was five years old. If you are good, you are good. God gave Freddy the gift to play soccer."
Even the greatest had Freddy Adu tipped for greatness.
So what happened?
Well, Freddy failed to live up to the unreasonable expectations placed on him. In his first 30 games at DC United, he struggle for playing time. He struggle with it so much that he complained to the media. He was suspended for a game. People started to lose interest because he wasn't scoring three goals a game. America is a highlight-obsessed society, and he just wasn't producing the highlights.
In 30 games, Freddy only managed to score five goals. Even though he was only 15 fans expected so much more. Some were already labeling him as a bust. Freddy did manage to become an All-star in two of his three years at DC United, but it wasn't enough.
Freddy had a brief two-week trial with Manchester United in November of 2006, but nothing ever materialized. The next month, Freddy Adu was traded to MLS team Real Salt Lake. His star had all but faded.
Then came the 2007 U-20 World Cup. Freddy went nuts.
During the U-20 World Cup, Freddy led the U.S. to the Quarter Finals, made possible by wins over Uruguay, Poland, and favorites Brazil. In only five games, Freddy had 3 goals and 2 assists. The star was shining again.
Later that summer, Freddy signed a deal with Portuguese super-club SL Benfica. Although he struggled to work his way up the ranks, Freddy did manage to get in a few games as a substitute and as a starter. He even made an appearance in the UEFA Champion's League. He scored a respectable five goals in 17 matches. He was only 18.
Unfortunately for Freddy, the manager that hired him was fired. He again struggled for playing time.
In July 2008, Freddy was loaned to French club AS Monaco. He has struggled at Monaco and has only appeared in nine matches. His lack of playing time at Monaco has affected his standing with the US National team as well. Though he scored his first goal International goal in a World Cup Qualifying match against Guatemala last year, he has been left on the bench for many International matches. In some cases, he wasn't even invited to matches.
Fortunately, he is set to return to SL Benfica this summer.
This is the soap opera of Freddy's life. Some may look at his life and only see the grim. Many have already written him off. I see that Freddy has the talent to succeed. All he needs to do is be put in the right situation and be given time to excel. He is only 19. He has been burdened with unrealistic expectations and now that some of the hype has faded, he may now be able to just enjoy the game. Freddy, like most athletes, excels when he is allowed to just enjoy the game. I guess for now that I want the world to forget about him
Just so he can captivate it again.