When Drogba left Chelsea in 2015 a massive hole was left in the hearts of all Chelsea fans.
This is a man that always turned up for Chelsea in major finals. A man responsible for delivering several Premier League titles to the Blue side of London. And most notably a man that gave Chelsea their first ever taste of European glory.
The impact that Didier had on the pitch cannot be understated. But more impressively, his impact off the pitch, in helping resolve a civil war, was even more impactful.
Ivorian Government vs The Rebels
The conflict began in 2002 when a rebellion group called the The New Forces decided to attempt a coup in the main cities of Ivory Coast. However, the coup didn’t work so the rebels decided to take refuge in the north of the country whilst the government controlled the south.
Qualifying for the 2006 World Cup
Fast forward to 2005, Ivory Coast were on the verge of qualifying for their first ever World Cup. Ivory Coast had done their part by defeating Sudan in a 3-1 victory.
The squad at the time was considered a golden generation. Premier League regulars such as Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure and Didier Zokora featured. A young Yaya Toure, who went on to have a fantastic career, was also included in the squad.
However, to seal their qualification, they had to wait for the result of the game between Egypt and Cameroon. Cameroon were just one point below Ivory Coast. So a win for them would see them qualify for the competition for the 6th time.
Ivory Coast anxiously waited for the result of this game. With the score tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes. Cameroon were miraculously awarded a penalty in added time.
The hope of millions of Cameroonian and Ivorian fans rested on the shoulders of penalty taker Pierre Womé. But for very different reasons…
Luckily for Ivorian fans, the defenders attempt struck the post and went out of play. The final whistle saw disappointment from the Cameroon players, but elation from the Ivorian players.
The Joy of Qualification Turns Sour
The mood took a change when the Ivorian players found out about a worrying situation that happened in their homeland. They had just been informed that the rebels had killed thousands of people in the country. A historic moment that the country waited 76 years for had been ruined.
Enough was enough for the team. They knew they had to do something to put an end to the violence. And they did just that.
They used this opportunity to invite the press into the dressing room. And Drogba took it upon himself to be one of the spokespeople for the team, directly addressing the nation. Didier called for national reconciliation for a country that had being suffering for an extremely long period of time.
Drogba’s team mates surrounding each other in the changing room was a perfect example of the unity Ivory Coast must strive to achieve. With players from both the south and north of the country embracing each other.
As they held onto each other, standing side by side. Drogba delivered these words:
Drogba’s Touching Message
“Ivorians we’ve proven today that entire population of Ivory Coast can live together. From the north, south, centre and west. We’ve proved today that all Ivorians can coexist and play together with a shared aim: to qualify for the World Cup.”
“We promised you that the celebrations would unite the people – today we beg you on our knees, the one country in Africa with so many riches must not descend into war. Please lay down your weapons and hold elections and everything will get better.”
These events in Sudan forced the government and those they were at war with to hold a meeting, a peace treaty that resulted in a cease fire.
The emotional speech Drogba had served its purpose as by the time the World Cup commenced in 2006, there was no more blood shed. The president had declared that the war had officially ended.
Drogba’s career has been filled with multiple Premier League titles, great performances in big games and game winning goals. But the proudest moment of his career came from a small changing room in Sudan.
Read more of our WNR Wednesday content and stories here.