the kanoute konundurum


Having been a missing person on the tour to Mauritius, Fredi Kanoute is now persona non grata, having left for the fields of Seville.  Marco van Hip takes his won look at the man who split the Spurs fans. 

Lackadaisical.  Languid.  Levitating.  Lax.  Leisurely.  Lagubrious.  Lithe.  Lanky.  Lazy.  Some of the L words that were used to describe Fredi Kanoute, but never a legend.
Kanoute came from West Ham with a bit of a reputation there of being afraid of a battle.  According to the West Ham fans, he not only went missing in the heat of a match, but often appeared to develop injuries in the lead up to games.  This was despite coming back into their side just before they got relegated to try and keep them up with his goals.  And getting sent off at Leeds did not please the Irons faithful either ... so Fredi couldnít win. 

His religion also played a part in how the supporters viewed him.  Being a strict Muslim, he seemed to pick up injuries around Ramadan, so the story goes, so that he didnít have to play when he was fasting.  Whether that was the case or not, it suited some to pick on this absence at that time of year (which is a different tie of year each year).   

Joining in the summer of 2003, with Matthew Etherington going the other way as part of the deal, Kanoute arrived at the club with something to prove.  He had come as a striker who had not kept his previous team in the Premiership.  He started off with Helder Postiga as his intended partner, but it soon developed with Robbie Keane up front alongside him, with the new Portuguese signing relegated to the bench.

Some disliked the nationality switch that he effected to take him from being a fringe French player to a regular starter for Mali, with a two-month gap at the start of the year to go away to play in the African Nations Cup.  That wasnít Frediís fault, but it hit our goalscoring ability in the early months of 2004, which is why Tottenham went out and bought Jermain Defoe.  Fredi came back with malaria and had to wait to get back in the side, but by then we had lost out to Man City in that Cup replay, when Kanouteís presence might have been useful. 

Another cup-tie later that year also saw Fredi targeted as Tottenham crashed out to a junior Liverpool side in the Carling Cup.  It was his handball that gave Liverpool a penalty three minutes from the end of extra time to salvage a draw and then, when it went to penalties, Kanoute was one of those to miss. 

I sat with Lee Dumont at Spurs Lodge, waiting to interview Paul Robinson, while a tabloid journalist was asking Fredi some questions.  He asked about he Liverpool game (some three months earlier) and why Fredi had handled the ball.  Kanoute, talking in a quiet low voice, said he did not know, it was just a reaction.  The hack went on to ask whether he thought Spurs would have won without the penalty Liverpool scored to equalise.  Fredi said he could not say.  Then moving onto the penalty shoot-out, he was asked if the handball was playing on his mind when he came to his turn.  Fredi intimated that it was not in the forefront of his mind when he struck the shot that was saved.  Not content, the journalist asked how his team-mates reacted when they got back into the dressing room and what Fredi had said to them.  The striker explained, with great patience, that they understood he had not meant it and that he felt bad that Tottenham had lost the match.  Continuing his theme, the pressman said that the fans would not have forgotten the handball and they felt bad about it.  Well, being a fan and hearing this I felt sorry for Kanoute that he had to go through such an ordeal.  As a fan, I did not hold it against him three months down the line.  These things happen in football. 

So, having fully interrogated Fredi on that, he asked ďYou are a strong Muslim.  Do you use your belief to help other Muslims in the community ?Ē  At which point, Fredi got up, politely made his excuses and left to have his lunch. 

This is perhaps the side of football that is not seen too often.  Kanoute had answered the persistent line of questioning (more like a police interview than a press one), but had to conduct himself with dignity and restraint. 

This may have reflected the way some people saw him on the pitch.  Laid back and not hurrying anywhere, but his style was more than that.  His ability to control the ball is second to none.  Although it didnít always work, he tried tricks to get around defenders and brought other players into the game.  Fredi could score goals of great quality, so perhaps the ones he didnít get were the ugly ones.  Fredi struck some cracking goals Ö Everton home 03, Man. City away 04, Aston Villa home 05.  But there never seemed to be enough of them.  Thatís why some fans turned against him, because he wasnít prolific enough. 

Having sold him, it seemed a bit remiss not to have someone guaranteed to take his place.  His height should have won more headers, but he would rather take the ball on his chest  ... even if he had to jump for it.  We have now gone for a different type of forward in Rasiak.  Whether he will remain in our minds as long as Kanoute, we will have to see.  But Fredi brought out the best and worst of Spurs fans in equal doses.  Some reading this will wonder if this was the same player they saw strolling around the pitch when Spurs played.  But you could say the same about many players.  And it is not only what players do on the ball that matters.  Sometimes, their work off the ball is just as important. 

For Fredi, a move to the sunnier climes of Sevilla is one he obviously wanted, once the club were willing to sell him.  It was good money for him after only two years here and we made a profit on the £3.5 million we signed him for.

I hope he has a good career at Sevilla and for him, the future could well be orange !!

Marco van Hip


Back to homepage