Drogba, Didier

Drogba, Didier
▪ 2008

born March 11, 1978, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

 On March 1, 2007, Ivorian association football (soccer) star Didier Drogba was voted African Footballer of the Year for 2006, after having finished a close second the year before. For Drogba, who played professionally for the London-based Football Association (FA) club Chelsea, it was a personal triumph.

      Chelsea fans had been slow to take Drogba to their hearts when he signed for the club in 2004 in a £24 million (about $44 million) trade from Olympic de Marseille. Though Chelsea won its first Premier League championship in 50 years that season, its new centre-forward was inconsistent. At 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in) tall and weighing 74 kg (163 lb), Drogba was quick, thoughtful, alert, and supremely confident in his own ability, though he showed a tendency to a quick temper in matches. Even in his second season, when the title was successfully defended, fan appreciation was still muted. Yet by 2006–07, when Chelsea failed in its attempt to take a third straight championship, Drogba had completely won over the skeptical Blues fans. His wholehearted efforts as a striker were rewarded with the Golden Boot as the league's top scorer (with 20 goals), and he finished the season with an overall tally of 33 goals. Without his invaluable contribution, Chelsea would have finished much lower than second place in the premiership and would have been unable to carry off the FA Cup and Carling Cup trophies, as Drogba scored the club's only goals in the finals of those two tournaments.

      It was a far cry from Côte d'Ivoire, where he grew up with the nickname “Tito.” At age five he was sent to France in the care of an uncle, a professional footballer. After three years the youngster returned home, but because of the worsening economic climate in Côte d'Ivoire, he was sent back to his uncle. At age 15 Drogba became an apprentice with second-division Levallois, and then in 1997–98 he moved to Le Mans Football Club, where in his second season he signed as a professional.

      In January 2002 Drogba joined Guingamp, tallying 17 goals in 34 league games. This success prompted a €6 million (about $6.7 million) trade to Marseille, where he scored 19 goals in 35 domestic matches and an additional 11 goals in European play as the club reached the 2004 Union des Associations Européennes de Football (UEFA) Cup final before losing 2–0 to Valencia of Spain.

      Drogba made the first of his 40 international appearances for Côte d'Ivoire in 2002, and by 2007 he had scored 28 goals, a record for his country. In 2006 he captained Côte d'Ivoire to the African Cup of Nations final match against Egypt but failed to score when it counted. His performance in the qualifying matches for the 2006 World Cup, however, enhanced his reputation, and his nine goals in eight preliminary matches catapulted the Ivorians into the World Cup finals for the first time.

Jack Rollin

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Universalium. 2010.

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