Freddy Adu To ESPN: ‘I’m Not Ready To Give It Up’

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Written by Ann Brown
Adu
American forward Freddy Adu, right, arrives at Macedonia airport in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, as Aris’ funs welcome him on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010 Adu joined Greek soccer club Aris on an 18-month loan deal from Benfica. (AP/Photos Nikolas Giakoumidis)

In an exclusive interview with ESPN, Ghanaian-born American soccer icon Freddy Adu said he has no intention of retiring anytime soon. Adu, who is coaching kids, said he will be in soccer in one form or another always.

His career started off with a bang. “Adu was the phenom who would save American soccer from irrelevance. At 14, in 2004, he started playing for Major League Soccer’s D.C. United. He starred in a commercial for Pepsi’s Sierra Mist brand with Pele, who compared Adu to Mozart. He signed a Nike deal. He did a ‘Got Milk?’ ad. He was on the cover of a cereal box, and the cover of Time magazine. In 2006, he trained briefly with Manchester United, then the world’s most important club. All of that was years ago, but he’s still recognized in airports,” ESPN reported.

It was expected Adu would become the next Pele, but that didn’t manifest. He wound up playing on team after team –14 in all. And, 13 years ago he left D.C. United. He played for a wide array of teams from Portugal’s famed Benfica to a Serbian team. And last year, he even played for the Las Vegas Lights last year.

“He ended up in Las Vegas for the 2018 season as a last resort. It was a chance to resurrect his career at 28. That didn’t work out, either,” ESPN reported. Adu wanted to return to Vegas for this season but was turned down.

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 “The fans would chant his name, ‘Freddy! Freddy!'” said someone affiliated with that team’s management. “Then they’d see him play, and they wouldn’t chant anymore.” 

So now after encouraged by two friends, Adu is training a youth club, Next Level Soccer. And, Adu said, soccer is finally fun again.

“This is literally grassroots,” he said, sitting on the bench during a break in the practice. “None of that other stuff. Just the good parts of the game.”

Yet, Adu hasn’t given up on his own career.

“I’d like to stay in the States,” Adu said. “I’ve been to some obscure places in my career. I’m not sure if I want to keep doing that. I’d like to play, but I’m hoping that it’s here.”

There was a time when Adu has more than hot. “He scored 15 goals in 16 games for the U.S. under-17 national team, and 16 more in 33 games for the under-20s,” ESPN reported.

 “He was unbelievable,” said Sammy Ochoa, who played with him at the under-20 World Cup in 2006. “He was great. Skillful. Quick. At that time, there was nobody like him.” Then things took a turn for Adu and the goals weren’t happening as fast or as often.

“It wasn’t all his fault. American soccer was still seeking its first international star. Adu happened to be anointed. At the same time, the idea of a 14-year-old playing in a top league against adults captured the imagination of the broader public,” ESPN reported.

Adu inked a $1-million deal with Nike. and D.C. United paid him $500,000. 

“He was touted before it was deserved, and before he was ready to handle it,” said Jason Kreis, who was Adu’s teammate and then his manager at Real Salt Lake in 2007. “He couldn’t cope with it. He believed what he was reading. He believed he was worth all the money he was being paid.”

Still, Adu has hope to get back on track. He told ESPN that the next time  will be different. “I know that for a fact,” he says.