Eugene Dadi. A man who flirted with Scottish football for just two seasons, yet one that many will remember in some way or another, particularly those connected with Aberdeen and Livingston.
A man who had a penchant for the sublime, the dreadful and the bizarre. A man who dipped into acting and fashion in tandem with his intriguing football career.
A man who certainly left his mark.
As a Chippy Hero Dadi of course has a suitably interesting back story. Born in the Ivory Coast he grew up under the watchful eye of his step-father Alain Paul, playing football in his bare feet on the streets of Abidjan, conditions which helped both to hone his ball skills and provide the motivation to use football to better his life.
And he received an unexpected boost when his genetic father, who worked in the Ivorian Embassy in Paris and whom he had never met, phoned one day to ask for the kids to be brought to France to improve their life chances. It was an offer Dadi’s mother could not refuse.
The move catapulted Dadi into football when in 1988 he was signed by Sochaux, a prodigious developer of youth talent in France, to be part of their academy programme. He then moved on to Stade Lavallois a year later before tragedy struck with the death of his father.
Dadi, very much a family man, decided to give up football in the wake of this devastation and moved to the island of Réunion, a French territory in the Indian Ocean, to pursue a career in property development.
Yet the beautiful game was not about to allow such a natural talent to walk away so easily.
While playing football in the park with some friends on his day off, he was spotted by LASK Linz of Austria who pursued him for months before eventually persuading him to sign, two years after he had packed it in.
He spent two and a half seasons there, bagging ten goals in fifty-two appearances before an ill-fated season at Toulouse, where the club was relegated to the third tier for financial trouble and those in charge were put under criminal investigation. They paid £500k for Dadi’s services…
Despite these dubious- yet interesting- credentials, the maverick Ebbe Skovdahl decided the skilful Ivorian striker was just the tonic needed to turn around Aberdonian fortunes after two disappointing seasons, and he joined in the summer of 2001 on a free transfer.
And it proved to be a stroke of genius as he helped the Dons finish a much-improved fourth. Admittedly he scored only five goals in his thirty-three appearances, but the numbers are not important.
Goals are overrated. Context is everything.
The period from the late nineties to the end of the noughties is not one that will go down as one of the finest in Aberdeen’s history.
With the club saddled with debt paying fans were apparently to be grateful for a third or fourth place finish at the very best and reaching cup finals was too much to ask.
Thus fans’ memories, particularly those too young to remember the glory years, are filled with moments from players who lit up the gloom. The players who made the Pittodrie ritual less akin to masochism.
The finest of these was undoubtedly Eoin Jess. But his name doesn’t lend itself as conveniently to a fan chant so we’ll settle for Eugene for now.
Dadi was an entertainer, albeit an inconsistent one. He was a player who, when the ball was at his feet, would have you on the edge of your seat in the knowledge that you could be about to see something special.
It was this knowledge that made it all the more frustrating when he gave it away needlessly or smashed the ball wide of the target; all part of the fun perhaps.
In many ways, despite only being at the club for one season, he epitomised Aberdeen over a longer period. Quite simply it was all about hope more than expectation.
However, also like the club, when Dadi delivered it was something to savour. The highlight being the moment he bamboozled Bobo Balde in a 2-0 win at Pittodrie against a Celtic side who would not lose again in the league that season.
Dadi received the ball on the left corner of the box with his back to goal, seemingly no danger. That was until the towering striker performed the most elegant of Cruyff turns with an added flick of the left boot to ghost past Balde and down the left to create a goal scoring chance for Robbie Winters.
A similar fate met Hearts’ Thomas Flogel two months earlier in a 3-2 win in which Dadi scored.
These may be two small isolated moments of brilliance but they are examples of football at its most pure, and of what Dadi was capable of.
He could also do the physical side of the game (a punch on Zurab Khizanishvili against Dundee springs to mind) and this combination endeared him to the Aberdeen faithful.
But more profoundly Dadi’s love of football, and life in general came across in the way he tried to play and it was infectious. This created a connection between him and the stands. Aptly demonstrated by his creation of the famous train celebration after that 2-0 victory against Celtic, a moment which warmed the freezing Aberdeen air.
What really marks Dadi out is that he has never wavered in his fun-filled approach despite significant tragedy in his life. As well as being uprooted as a child and dealing with the death of his father he came home from training one day whilst playing for Livingston to find the horror that his girlfriend had hanged herself.
While playing for Toulouse he was disciplined by the management for flying home to the Ivory Coast to visit his step-father who had been shot in the civil-uprising.
Yet he has persisted on and off the pitch; acting in a play for a year whilst at Linz and launching his own fashion label ‘Uge Clothing’ later in his career.
He played in France, Austria, Scotland, England, Israel, New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia before retiring in 2012.
A man of passion, flair and adventure. A great footballer? Absolutely not. But he certainly put smiles on the faces of fans.
In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?