"He said the strongest thing an individual can have is the mental strength... If you believe in yourself that will set you apart."
The quote, of course, cannot be attributed to Didier Drogba himself, but is a line from former teammate and current Liverpool and England star Daniel Sturridge. While not really news, reading the quote got me thinking a bit about Drogba and his legacy in and around football.
It was quite a busy month of October for Drogba; claiming the 2013 Golden Foot award, leading his Ivory Coast squad to a vital 3-1 first-leg win over Senegal in the CAF World Cup qualifying play-offs, and continuing to bang them in for Galatasaray in the Turkish Super Lig and the Champions League.
His previous record of achievement in football is extraordinary; three-time Premier League champion, four-time winner of the FA Cup, an absolutely litany of personal records and honours, and of course, winner and man of the match of the 2012 UEFA Champions League final. However, what we often neglect in the discourse on Drogba are his absolutely astonishing accomplishments of the pitch.
Before we explore the man’s potential future I would like, for a moment, to bring you back to 2005. Les Éléphant, had just qualified for the 2006 World Cup amidst years of relentless civil war in the Ivory Coast. In the locker room following qualification a camera crew and microphone found their way to Drogba. Then, the unimaginable happened. Drogba, on his knees with his teammates surrounding him, and begged the warring factions; “pardonnez, pardonnez, " forgive, forgive. Within a week, his request had been granted, a cease to hostility had been reached in the Ivory Coast.
Recently, Drogba has stated that he wants to play for four more years, but what will the man go on to do after retirement from the beautiful game? Other popular African footballers have ventured into national politics, most notably Liberian great George Weah. Weah’s foray into the 2005 Liberian presidential election was unsuccessful.
His opponents, namely Harvard educated Ellen Sirleaf, cited his lack of education as proof of Weah’s lack of fitness to govern. My thought was this; could Didier Drogba be the first ever African footballer to win a presidential election in their native country? This is not to say that he would want the position, but ostensibly, could it be achieved?
What makes Drogba such an appealing candidate is not only his history of humanitarian work, not just his popularity in the country as a world class footballer, but something much greater, much more stately, his ability as a spontaneous, charismatic, influential orator.
Further evidence of this is his post-match locker room speech following the 2012 Champions League win. According to The Guardian: “The improvised eulogy touched upon everything from previous near-misses to a theatrical chronology of the evening’s events: from unexpected European debuts to defensive resilience, late headed goals to penalty heroics. The testimony was interspersed with a regular refrain that implored, with knees bent in mock worship of the silverware: ‘Why did you elude us for so long?’ He was dancing on the table, praying to the cup.”
Clearly, Drogba has some innate ability to use his words to instill some level of influence, it only remains to be seen whether or not the superstar of sport will ever use this power for the good of his homeland. Or perhaps, when the curtain does fall on this legend’s career, he will drift off into the sunset.
It has been said time and time again; football is a funny old game.
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