‘Traore’ 40″ x 25″ Acrylic, Resin and ink on hardboard
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve walked out of Molineux after a win, dizzy with the victory, tears in your eyes, shaking a little at the joy of the whole spectacle. But I’ve also had a little hollow space in my heart, tiny yes, but still there. A little hole that needed filling with something a little special and maybe even a little insane. I think all of us were searching for someone to join our team, someone who we can say truly reflects our madness I suppose. A player that would make us turn inside out with excitement even through the fog of a few pints pre match. I suspect we have found that player now. Adama Traore. His football is like being punched in the face with an Icecream. Sometimes a knuckle, often a delicious gob full of ice cream. Mr Whippy Traore is…a cool Mr Whippy with Reggae chimes.
Adama I think, was trapped by his football before he came to Wolves. I suspect it may have weighed heavily on his mind and that transferred to his feet. What we saw initially was a player struggling to integrate ability with a new footballing roadmap instigated by Nuno Espirito Santos and the University of Compton. That struggle is documented in the early days of his Wolves career when the Flakies on Social Media denigrated him endlessly. All you have to do to find out my thoughts is read the blog, maybe chat to a few people who I talk football with to define my opinion. He was at the rough end. New team, new Manager, new grooves to learn. As with all new skills it takes time to ascertain a new rythym, a new approach. The same substrate was there of course. The speed, the agility, the chaos of an early run. But now that rawness was being tempered in the forge of Compton. There were new ways of doing things. New views on what the player should do in given situations. How does Nuno do it really? I think for a start he has to have a player who will listen and understand what he says. I suspect this ability to ascertain which prospective player has any eagerness to learn is a part of the whole recruitment madness and why some players with obvious ability explode and self destruct in a shrapnel like atmosphere of burst balloons and false eyelashes. They didn’t listen, but I suspect Adama listens with a razor sharp intellect. Many call Adama a ‘Beast’ and nothing could be further from the truth.
Gradually I have again come to view the trails and tribulations of Adama as a major part of the human experience, a shared desire for love, happiness and fucking great football. Maybe its the Kwan again. The thread that connects everything together and binds us all to a final event, a moment when we can grab onto the rail in front of us in the Southbank and say ‘Well yes, that is pure football’. The lines that Adama runs in a football match often tangle, come undone, unravel perhaps and eventually rejoin until the tapestry of his physicality is complete in all it’s glory. Regardless of his background and his skills, his lifestyle and his football that thread I think runs straight to us and makes us feel a part of his journey. I think Adama plays football like we would play football. That raw epiphany as we watched him develop game after game consoles us that perhaps there is some hope in pure unadulterated football coming back for a short while and gives us joy that those threads also make us involved too. Perhaps it was even destined that he should come to us and learn such is the love I have for Traore. He makes my heart beat a little faster when he gets the ball, when he ghosts past someone I grab onto the arm of whoever is next to me. I wish he would shoot more but he is generous and human and I think the delight he has in an assist is the same delight as if he scored a goal. I truly think that.
For a moment while there is a break in play Adama Traore puts his hands on his hips and looks around him. He narrows his eyes as Molineux is bright and noisy. He takes a few deep breaths and the muscles hung to that frame quiver and twitch because his brain is still screaming at him to possess the ball again, to guide the ball through the madness of the opposition defence and to smash through these layers of footballers, to inch the perfect weighted ball onto the feet of Raul or Jota. But for a minute he just looks at the sky and smiles to himself…
Adama defies the normal storyline. In other alternate worlds he would have crumbled under the pressure and slid down the muddy grass to incompleteness…to inhabit the world now surrounding Bright Enkobahare or Jordan Graham. Now as much as I can write about the physicallity of Adama it is not the whole story of course. For overmuscled football players are ten a penny. Fast players also available. Those Wolves shirts that adorn the Traore back are stretched as tight as a drum over him…but mind is everything of course. The control centere that propells Traore across the Molineux turf is driven by Philosophy again. Nuno has dropped knowledge upon the head of Adama. To run here, not there, to watch him and not ignore him. To move into this space and that space until the canvas has been cleared and it is time for Adama to make his art and entwine that thread around us, the fans, tighter and tighter until of course eventually the thread is cut and Adama expands his skills into new arenas and new players. But we were here first of course. We watched the birth of Adama Traore the footballer right here at Molineux regardless of where he had played before.
There is of course much more to say about the Traore narrative and some of the early puzzling play we watched from Adama but I would rather concentrate on the concept of Traore and maybe even look at the concept (perhaps) that Adama has made us in some way feel a wholeness about our relationship with our team. You see most of what we know about football is by talking to people about the past, the matches we watched before and that ‘they’ watched. We watch reruns of great Wolves matches on YouTube and many other platforms. We remember ‘this’ and ‘that’ and wax eloquently often on the football we have watched and that football doesn’t even have to be Wolves football because the thread that ties us to Adama also entwines around all other teams (apart from Villa and Sandwell). But that vision and memory of those past matches are never really clear even seconds after they have happened. They become blurry with emotion and the madness of thirty thousand triumphant voices. Sometimes the memory we have of past players glories are exaggerated and become fantasies that also become entwined with the memories of events.
It would be fantastic of course if we could watch Adama grow as a person and as a Footballer from his earliest years until he decides to close the (playing) footballing chapter of his career. What will be his destiny in the next few years? I hope it is fulfilment of his dreams and ours entwined together and only God knows which way that particular story will grow and develop. For now of course we live in the knowledge that we have within our team of brilliant professionals possibly one of the most exciting football players I have ever watched and he has inspired this art above.
In this art is a few hidden things. What looks like random slashes and daubs of paint are intricate codes that explain many of the empirical aspects of Adama Traores football. I think perhaps that if you apply colour with nothing in your mind except the two hours of YouTube Traore videos then your subconscious takes over and all the madness of his football linked with the empricial and quantitative data of his performance will entwine…just like that thread that binds us to Traore (together) into a piece of art that makes perfect sense even if it screams abstraction. In the bottom right and upper left you will see what seems to be random slashes and scribble. This is Adama Traore on the pitch during several of our winning games. I watch him closely on the screen and I move my paintbrush exactly where he goes. The rest of it I suppose I will leave for others to decode. But please enjoy it in these insane times.