Didier Drogba: A Footballer who Stopped a Civil-War

Didider Drogba, this name is etched on every Chelsea fans’ heart. He was the man who delivered the Blues it’s first title in 50 years and also led them to a Champions League trophy.

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But his on field heroics are nothing compared to what he has done off the field. This man single handedly stopped a civil war that was destroying the country of Ivory Coast for 5 years.

The situation of tension was brewing since 1993 when Ivory Coast’s only president Félix Houphouët-Boigny, died after 33 years in office. But the actual conflict apparently started in 2000 when the government decided on a resolution before an upcoming election that it is required for a presidential candidate to have both parents born in the country. This resolution meant the exclusion of Alassane Ouattara, a leading contender who enjoyed mass support in the Muslim-dominated northern parts of the country, especially from the poor immigrants from the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Mali who worked in coffee and cocoa plantations.

Within 2 years the soldiers in the north upheld a revolt against the government and this revolt marked an emergence of an bloody struggle that exploited and consumed the country for the next 5 years. There were no signs of the struggle to end any soon but in the dark there was certainly a glimmer of hope. Ivory Coast qualified for the 2006 World Cup and this event elevated his level from a sports-person/celebrity to a national icon.

Christophe Diecket, an official with the Ivory Coast Football Federation said:

“When I saw Drogba say that on television, I got goose bumps. My wife cried. The people on TV cried. We Ivorians, we had this abscess, a sickness, but we had no way to lance it to get better. It couldn’t have been done by anyone else. Only Drogba. He’s the one who has cured us of this war”

Ivory Coast’s 3-1 victory over Sudan accompanied with Cameroon’s loss to Egypt meant that Ivory Coast had punched their tickets for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It was the first time they qualified for the biggest football tournament in the world. Following the match when the eyes of the nation was on their television screens, Drogba got hold of the mic and pleaded to his country to come together to support their nation and put an end to this struggle which is going on for 5 years.

Drogba’s speech had an immediate effect on the Ivorians and the country together celebrated their joy of qualifying for the FIFA world Cup first time in their history.

But the moments of peace were shortlived and tensions again began to rise in 2 years time, the national hero again stepped up. Drogba requested the President to shift the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifier from the southern part of the country to the rebel-held city of Bouaké in the north in an effort to unite the country through football. Ivory Coast thrased Madagascar 5-0 and the country was again brought to their feet as they forgot everything and celebrated their victory over Madagascar.

Drogba is a legend without a doubt and he also has a soft corner in every Chelsea supporter’s heart but the 2 time African Player of the Year will always stand elevated for whatever he has done to restore peace for his country. He is the first ever African to score 100 goals in the Premier League and returned one the world’s most popular club to relevancy after a 50 year period of futility, but his persona and leadership resonated far beyond the beautiful game.

Dider Drogba once said:

“I have won many trophies in my time, but nothing will ever top helping win the battle for peace in my country.”

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Some very well renowned sports personalities like- Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Magic Johnson are celebrated as a transcendant figures in the global arena of sports especially due to their transmundane personality and charisma and their impact is well and truly beyond sports. But no one will ever do things which Didier Drogba did for his county and its people.