While this blog has no formal connection to Ivory Coast’s greatest footballer, we do think he’s one of the best players of his entire generation and a nice guy to boot. His appearance as a super-sub in Ivory Coast’s first match at the World Cup finals helped galvanise his team mates, as well as lift the crowd, and within a few minutes the team had gone from 0-1 down to 2-1 up against Japan.
Nevertheless, the frequent wave of media profiles of the great man regularly slip into some lazy and repeated errors, that we think it’s worth correcting. Here goes…
1. Didier Drogba does not have a village named after him in Ivory Coast.
It’s true that there is a place called Drogbakro in the commercial capital Abidjan, which in the baoule language means ‘village of Drogba’, but it is actually no more than the house of a super-fan (the self-proclaimed chief of the village). Didier has never met the super-fan or visited the village for reasons that I fully understand. It’s a nice journalism story, and I’ve featured the place a few times myself, but it’s a bit over the top to describe the fan-shrine as a village.
2. Didier Drogba did not single-handedly halt the Ivorian civil war.
His contribution was I think important and significant, but it was part of a wider process with many actors, and it’s unfair to just talk about one man, just because he happens to be one of the few Ivorians people have heard of. His efforts were laudable, but the myth-making has at times pushed the truth a little too far.
3. Didier Drogba would not get elected if he stood for president tomorrow.
He is extremely popular in Ivory Coast and his mere appearance in public can provoke a riot, but Ivorian’s know how to make the difference between a sportsman and a politician (cf. Weah in Liberia). Maybe one day he will go into politics, though I think he knows politics is often a dirty game and he’d become less of a universal figure. In public declarations he quite sensibly says that politics isn’t for him.
4. Didier Drogba is not treated as a god in Ivory Coast.
I think this myth is fused with a lot of rather negative stereotypes about tribal Africa. I’ve never heard any Ivorian every describe Didier Drogba as a god. People him treat him as he deserves – as a superstar footballer.
5. Although the phrase ‘Generation Drogba’ may be a useful shorthand, Didier Drogba himself is rather atypical of this extraordinary talented crop of Ivorian players.
At times the Ivory Coast starting XI has been ten Asec Mimosas academy recruits plus Drogba (who grew up in France). The Drogba phenomenon is an individual one, but the Ivorian football phenomenon in a wider sense is the story of the Asec academy and the quite extraordinary players that took to football in the 1990s, many of whom featured in Asec’s African super cup triumph in 1999.