Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Didier Drogba was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and at the age of five was sent to France by his parents to live with his uncle, Michel Goba, a professional footballer. However, Drogba soon became homesick and returned to Abidjan after three years. His mother nicknamed him "Tito", after president Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia whom she admired greatly. He played football every day in a car park in the city but his return to Côte d'Ivoire was short lived. Both of his parents lost their jobs and he again returned to live with his uncle. In 1991, his parents also travelled to France, first to Vannes and then settling in 1993 at Antony in the Paris suburbs, at which point the 15-year-old Drogba returned to live with them and his siblings. It was here that he began playing team football more frequently, joining a local youth side. Drogba began his career as a junior player at the semi-professional club Levallois, gaining a reputation as a prolific scorer in the youth team and impressing the coach with his professional attitude. His performances earned him a place in the senior squad but, despite scoring on his debut, the 18-year-old Ivorian failed to make an impression on Jacques Loncar, the first team coach.
Le Mans (1997–2002)
When Drogba finished school he switched cities to study accountancy at college and he had to change club, becoming an apprentice at Ligue 2 club Le Mans. However, his first two years there were marred by injuries and he was physically struggling to cope with the training and match schedule. Former Le Mans coach Marc Westerloppe later remarked that "it took Didier four years to be capable of training every day and playing every week". Furthermore, Drogba's complicated family life meant that he had never attended a football academy and only began daily football training as a fully grown adult.
By age 21, Drogba realized that he had to establish himself as a player soon or else he would have little chance of becoming a professional footballer. He made his first team debut for Le Mans soon thereafter and signed his first professional contract in 1999. Drogba's personal life was also becoming more serious as he and his Malian wife Alla had their first child, Isaac. He grew into his new responsibilities later stating: "Isaac's birth was a turning point in my life, it straightened me out". His first season boded well for the future, scoring seven goals in thirty games, but the following season did not live up to expectations. Drogba lost his place to Daniel Cousin due to injury, then upon his return he failed to score throughout the remainder of the season. However, he returned to form the following season making 21 appearances and scoring five times.
Drogba is a Ivory Coast international and helped the team qualify for its first ever World Cup, held in Germany in 2006. His first cap came on 8 September 2002 against South Africa and he scored his first goal with "The Elephants" on 11 February 2003 against Cameroon in a 3–0 victory.
In February 2006, Drogba captained Côte d'Ivoire to their second African Cup of Nations final, scoring the only goal in their semi-final match with Nigeria and putting away the deciding spot-kick in their record-tying 12–11 penalty shootout quarter-final win over Cameroon. However, they lost in the final to Egypt 4–2 on penalties after a 0–0 draw, with Drogba's shot being stopped by Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary in a penalty shoot-out.
In the 2006 World Cup, Côte d'Ivoire were drawn in a "group of death" with Serbia and Montenegro, the Netherlands and Argentina. On 11 June 2006, Drogba scored the first World Cup goal of his career and of his country's history in the opening game against Argentina, but his team lost. Ivory Coast were eliminated from the World Cup after their next game, a 1–2 defeat to the Netherlands, but came from 0–2 down to win against Serbia and Montenegro 3–2 in their final group game, with Drogba watching from the sidelines following suspension.
In the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, Ivory Coast were drawn in a group with Nigeria, Mali and underdogs Benin. Drogba scored two goals in the group stage, opening the scoring in the 4–1 win over Benin and the first on the score sheet again in the 3–0 win over Mali. In the quarter finals, Drogba was on the score sheet once again in the 5–0 thrashing of Guinea with the last four goals coming in the final twenty minutes. The semi final was a rematch of the 2006 final against Egypt, but it was to be the end of the road for Drogba and the Ivory Coast, at the hands of the 2006 champions, losing 4–1 and then had no more luck in third place play-off, losing 4–2 to Ghana.
He scored 6 goals in 5 qualification games to helped the team qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations Drogba scored one goal in the 3-1 victory against Ghana in the group stage. Ivory Coast reached the quarter finals but lost 2-3 to Algeria.
In March 2010, he was named as the 2009 African Footballer of the Year, his second time winning the award in his career.
Drogba is married to Alla, a Malian woman whom he met in Paris, and the couple have three children together. His eldest son, Isaac, was born in France in 1999. He has two younger brothers who are also footballers: Joël and Freddy Drogba. Freddy, 17, is currently in the youth system of French side Le Mans. On 24 January 2007, Drogba was appointed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a Goodwill Ambassador. The UNDP were impressed with his previous charity work and believed that his high profile would help raise awareness on African issues. Drogba's charity work continued when, in late 2009, he announced he would be donating the 3 million GBP signing on fee for his endorsement of Pepsi for the construction of a hospital in his hometown of Abidjan. This work was done through Drogba's recently created "Didier Drogba Foundation" and Chelsea announced they too would donate the fee for the deal toward the Foundation's project. Drogba decided on building the hospital after a recent trip to the Ivorian capital's other hospitals, saying "...I decided the Foundation's first project should be to build and fund a hospital giving people basic healthcare and a chance just to stay alive.