Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure are two of the best things ever to happen to Ivory Coast football
The country has produced some of the most elite footballers on the continent and names that come to mind first are Laurent Pokou (second all-time top scorer of the Africa Cup of Nations), Youssouf Falikou Fofana, Abdoulaye Traore, Basile Boli of Marseille fame, Alain Gouamene, Ibrahima Bakayoko, Joel Tiehi just to mention but a few.
Chelsea’s Droba and Manchester City’s Toure, however, have a carved their own spectacular history within the West African francophone country’s football circles.
Yaya and Drogba loved by the people
When I visited the Ivory Coast in 2010, there was one common thing I saw mostly on the streets of Abidjan, the economic capital town of the country.
Most local soccer fans you would meet were either in a Didier Drogba Chelsea replica shirt and a Yaya Toure Manchester City light blue jersey or an old Barcelona 19-numbered Toure shirt.
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Replicas of their orange national team jerseys were also very familiar on the busy streets of Abidjan. The two are worshipped idols in the country.
Just even before the 2015 African Cup of Nations, the internationally-retired Drogba was seen by many as the greatest Ivorian player of in history with acclamation.
Ivory Coast's all-time top goal-scorer, three FIFA World Cup qualifications, first ever Ivory Coast World Cup goal, five Africa Cup of Nations appearances, runners-up medals in 2006 and 2012 were just as good as enough to put the Chelsea legend on top of the others -including Yaya Toure.
But with Toure taking over the captaincy baton from Drogba to lead the Elephants to success in the 2015 Africa Cup - his first tournament as captain - the mammoth question emerges: who is the most revered Ivorian player in history? Still Drogba - or Yaya?
Drogba more than a footballer
Drogba turned out to be a worshipped figure in his country for his past leadership of the national team qualifying them to their maiden World Cup participation in 2006.
Though he did not win any major trophy for the country but the fact that he is building a hospital that will bring equal joy to the people of Ivory Coast is also refreshing and fuels his hero status in the country.
His role in restoring peace and order in the country during the political war period even speaks volumes about the footballer and even to the extent that many forget that he did not lead them to win a major trophy as captain of the national team for eight years.
Sadly, he captained the team to reach the finals of the African Cup in 2006 and 2012 but lost on penalty shoot-outs to Egypt and Zambia respectively. Heartbreaking indeed.
The title of a football great does not come easy for footballers who did not win a major trophy with their national teams but for the memories that Didier has left for the football loving fans of the Ivory Coast, I am pushed to say that Didier would be an exception to the definition of "football great" .
The story of Drogba brings into mind that of John Haynes who captained England in the 1962 World Cup but a car accident ended his international football only for England to win the 1966 global tournament on home soil without him.
African Footballer of the Year
Drogba was voted Africa’s finest player in 2006 and 2009 and in the process becoming the first ever Ivorian player to win the award.
But Yaya has monopolized the award since 2011 to date winning it a record four times in a row, something never ever than by any player before in the history of the awards. The midfield powerhouse went into the 2015 Nations Cup as the reigning best African player of the year.
Though Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o won the accolade four times but it wasn’t consecutive.
Head-to-head at club level
Toure boasts of the same major trophies just as Drogba would do in trophy haul. The Premier League title, the FA Cup, the League Cup and above all the UEFA Champions League - plus the La Liga titles he won at Barcelona.
Yaya has two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and one League Cup. At Barcelona he won two La Liga titles, two UEFA Champions League.
Drogba on the other has been a major part of Chelsea’s modern football history winning three Premier league titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and one UEFA Champions League with the English side.
For both players, in their illustrious career club titles were never had to come by but internationally it proved a curse.
But the tables have turned now with the former Barcelona man - who just two days ago has won the Africa Cup to fill an important vacuum in his trophy cabinet, a trophy the country has not won in 23 years.
Destiny might not have favoured the Chelsea man to win the trophy as he retired from international football some five months in the build up to the 2015 Africa Cup tournament but how could destiny be so cruel to a son of the land who toiled and did his possible best to win something for his country only for him to take rest and shortly see the trophy annexed by his former teammates.
This probably could turn out to be the differential decisive factor to consider in answering the question of who between the two is the most revered in history.
For many Ivorians and Drogba faithfuls it was awkward and bittersweet feeling to see Ivory Coast lift the 2015 African cup of nations in Equatorial Guinea without spotting somebody conspicuously wearing the number eleven shirt.
In any case, both players have etched their place in the history of Ivorian football but the debate about who is the most revered in history could proved to be never-ending.
Didier Drogba or Yaya Toure - who is Ivory Coast's greatest ever player? Tell us in the comments below.
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