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Drogba… a fall patriotism, compassion could not halt

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From the 2004 football season when he moved to Chelsea from Olympique Marseille until he retired from the game, there was, perhaps, no more beloved and famous footballer in the West African sub region than Didier Drogba. The guy was almost the sole reason why many African soccer fans fell in love with Chelsea. Drogba, a legend of the sport, was quick, alert, and supremely confident in his own ability. And like a true warrior, Drogba led his country’s national team, the Elephants, to several battles and returned home victorious. One poignant moment many football fans across the globe will always remember about Drogba was the pivotal role he played which brought peace to his country after many years of civil war. He became the face and symbol of a new, post-civil war Cote d’Ivoire.

However, when it was time for payback, Drogba, a two-time African Player of the Year, was left to walk alone. His bid to become the next president of the Ivorian Football Federation took a massive hit last week as he secured zero votes from members of the Association of former Ivorian footballers. Of the 14 members in the Association, 11 voted for his rival, Sory Diabate, while three persons abstained.

“There are dangerous people out there who do not care about what you have done for the country or the people, all they want is to fill is their pockets,” former Green Eagles winger, Adegoke Adelabu said in a chat with The Guardian yesterday.

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The result of the election, which was done via video conferencing, has sparked a massive debate in Cote d’Ivoire. Drogba was the massive favourite going into the polls, particularly after experienced administrator Eugene Diomande withdrew from the race and publicly backed him (Drogba).

Didier Zokora, who was Drogba’s assistant captain, shockingly was among the retired players that voted against him. To Adegoke Adelabu, the government of Cote d’Ivoire did not also play its part well. “I think it is the fault of the government of that country. If they realised what Drogba did for the country and they wanted to get him into the system to compensate him, they knew what to do. Direct order would have been issued confidentially and the voters would be compensated in one way or another.”

Adelabu, who played for the IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan in his active days continues: “When we talk of politics, there are many things that may be difficult to understand. There may be people there who may not like Drogba’s personality in terms of maybe looking down on people and also from the point of view of being too big to be controlled.

“Many of our African stars are too proud when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Also being a good player doesn’t make you a good administrator. I think the major issue with that election is the fear that Drogba may be too big for them to relate with,” Adelabu stated.

Former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Emmanuel Babayaro is yet to come to terms with the result of Cote d’Ivoire FA election. Babayaro told bsnsports.com that the outcome of the election clearly explained the disharmony among footballers after retirement from the game.

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“First, I will attribute this to envy because most times, ex-internationals seem to envy themselves, especially when one is thriving. There is so much envy and bad blood amongst us former footballers, Babayaro, a member of the Golden Eaglets to Japan ‘93 FIFA U-17 World Cup, stated.

Victor Ezeji, who said he was shocked by the outcome of the election, added that he is still unable to comprehend Drogba’s defeat in the Ivorian FA presidential election.

Before he stepped up for the Ivorian FA election, Drogba had demonstrated his love for his people by playing his role as great mobiliser of the youths across his nation. Apart from awarding scholarships to many young Ivoirians to gain quality education, he also commissioned a school built in the village of Onahio Pokou-Kouamekro. He said it was his way of building a future generation for Cote d’Ivoire.

Under the auspices of the Didier Drogba Foundation and with support from Nestle and the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), the school will enable 350 children have access to education in the rural cocoa growing community. The facility will replace an existing school in Pokou-Kouamekro, which was made of mud and lacked the necessary infrastructure.

It comprises of six classrooms, a kindergarten class, a school canteen, school latrines, a football field and three teachers’ homes to attract qualified teachers. It took Drogba two years to complete the project.

Drogba also funded the construction of five clinics, which specialise in children and women’s health. The clinics estimated around $5 million, were spread across five major cities namely Abidjan, Korhogo, Yamoussoukro, Man and San Pedro. The projects were funded by Didier Drogba Foundation’s London galas and his personal contributions.

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Drogba first announced his plan to build a hospital in the city of Abidjan in 2009 using his entire £3 million ($4.5 million) fee from an endorsement deal with Pepsi. But instead of building one big hospital “that may be difficult for many people to reach,” he decided to be more practical to build five smaller clinics spread throughout the country.

Drogba declared recently: “If we give children access to health and education, we will build future generations of doctors, scientists, businessmen and women. That is how we build a better Africa.”

The 36-year-old Drogba scored a record 65 goals in 104 caps for the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire before retiring from international football in 2014, a year after he led the team to unsuccessful mission against the Super Eagles at South Africa 2013 African Cup of Nations in the city of Rustenburg.

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At the Stamford Bridge, Drogba was worshipped for his doggedness and eye for goals. He led the Blues to win its first Premier League title in 50 years.
In 2012, Drogba led Chelsea to capture the UEFA Champions League, becoming the fifth English team, and the first from London, to win the competition. In 2013, he piloted Chelsea to win the UEFA Europa League and became the fourth club to win all three main UEFA club competitions.

Though he lost the FA election, many Ivorian football fans still remember Drogba for the peace role he played for his country after many years of civil war. The civil war in Cote d’Ivoire had raged for five years before Drogba led the ‘golden generation’ of Elephants in an African Nations Cup qualifier against Madagascar in Bouake, the old rebel stronghold about 300 km north of Abidjan.

As a leader, Drogba picked up a microphone in the dressing room and, surrounded by his teammates, fell to his knees live on national television, where he begged both warring factions to lay down their arms.

And after he helped the Elephants to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, Drogba challenged President Laurent Gbagbo to end the civil war. He made a desperate plea to the combatants, asking them to lay down their arms. Within a week, his plea was answered with a ceasefire after five years of civil war.

Drogba became the symbol of a new, post-civil war for his country. Before now, Drogba was seen as a god to the Ivorian people, not because of being famous as a footballer, but also because he is someone who speaks for the masses. He is in tune with the average Ivorian. How Didier Zokora and other ex-players turned against Drogba in the Ivoirian FA elections remains a mystery to many soccer fans across the globe.

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Didier Drogba
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