Stacia Briggs profiles Tom Adeyemi, the Norwich City youngster at the centre of football racism storm after match at Liverpool's Anfield ground
PUBLISHED: 09:13 12 January 2012 | UPDATED: 11:41 12 January 2012
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It would be fair to say that Tom Adeyemi doesn't exactly fit the stereotype of your average professional footballer.
A highly-gifted academic who turned down an offer from Cambridge University two years ago to pursue his dream of a career in professional football, former Norwich School pupil Adeyemi is a well-liked, respected and somewhat shy footballer.
Described by his manager at Oldham Athletic, Paul Dickov, as “a placid boy with a fantastic temperament”, it came as a shock to fans and pundits when his tear-streaked face was seen by millions after alleged racial abuse during a game at Liverpool on Friday.
Abuse appeared to have come from the famous Kop end of the ground towards the end of the FA Cup third-round tie, where, according to witnesses, fans were seen wearing Luis Suarez t-shirts and brandishing scarves bearing the player’s name.
Adeyemi confronted his abuser and became visibly upset, prompting players from both teams to step forward to offer him reassurance – at one point, he appeared to be in tears as he lifted his shirt to wipe his eyes.
Football fans around the world were quick to condemn the verbal attack. His current manager at Oldham said: “He is a kid who has been well-educated with a fantastic temperament and has been with us since the end of August and I’ve never seen him raise his voice. For him to react like that it is obvious that something has been said. He is fine now. He has calmed down. He is a laid-back kid who just gets on with business.” Born and raised in Norwich, Thomas Oleseun Adeyemi, 20, is the son of Elijah and Toni, who run healthcare companies in East Anglia.
He attended Norwich School, which dates back to 1096 and can boast Viscount Horatio Nelson as a former pupil, and excelled both academically and athletically, being a student who colleagues said: “could simply turn his hand to anything”.
After receiving A star results in biology and chemistry at A level and an A grade in mathematics, Adeyemi was offered a place at the prestigious Cambridge University – however, at the time of the offer he was already on loan at Bradford, having signed for Norwich City at 17.
“It’s something I see as being important when I’ve finished playing,” said Tom, who was praised by Stephen Fry at a Norwich School prize evening and who is said to have plans to become a doctor after his football career ends.
“Once you’ve got the results, they’ll always be there for you. I’ve started off a career in football now, so hopefully the qualifications are something I can use in the future rather than right now,” he said at the time.
Following Adeyemi’s very public reaction at Anfield, neighbours of the family – who live in the Golden Triangle area of Norwich – expressed their shock at what had happened. “Tom is an extremely intelligent young man. I don’t even want to read the papers because I’d get too upset. I couldn’t bear anything or anyone to have hurt Tom,” Annabelle Gooch, who lives next door to the Adeyemi family home, was quoted as saying.
Husband Edward added: “Tom is a wonderful lad. He went to the school where my daughter is employed in Norwich and had the highest academic results of his year.”
When Norwich signed Adeyemi in 2008, aged 17, former manager Glenn Roeder spoke fondly of his latest recruit.
“He’s very athletic, technically very gifted and one of the nicest young men that I’ve ever dealt with. He comes from a lovely family and academically I don’t think he got anything less than an A grade in his GCSEs,” he said.
Named Championship Manager Apprentice of the Year at the Football League Awards in 2010, Adeyemi shows every sign of continuing his record of high achievement.
And ignorant, hateful insults won’t hold back one of Norwich’s finest exports.