The other weekend I read a blog post about Didier Drogba’s latest autobiography ‘Commitment’, and after a quick Kindle purchase, the book had been downloaded and read by Sunday evening. I do have his previous autobiography (unread) on my shelf, and I suspect this is simply an update, though I haven’t examined the two side-by-side. Last year I read ‘Didier Drogba’ by Ian McShane, which is similar though not as insightful.
Here’s my run-down of a few things I learned from the book:
- Drogba believes divine power has helped him become the football player he is today. I’ve never known Didier mention his Catholic faith, though he sometimes wears a cross. But it turns out he’s often praying in the middle of games, particularly key ones, and that he feels his prayers have often been answered. Interestingly, his Marseille shirt hangs as a sort of relic in the cathedral in Marseille, the city where he used to play. His wife also invokes the Almighty in the famous video of them watching the African Cup of Nations penalty shoot out victory. He does of course have an incredible record in these big matches.
- When his parents moved to France (long after he’d been living there with his uncle) the whole family lived in terrible conditions squeezed into a tiny flat. His father went from middle class banker in Cote d’Ivoire to menial jobs in France. Drogba clearly believes the line between becoming a successful footballer, and a struggling inner-city immigrant in France was a narrow one.
- Drogba’s footballing career started late, and you can feel the pain when he sees people of his generation like Thierry Henry already playing for France while he’s fighting for places at minor teams. Like his footballing uncle, he moves around the small league sides before (in his case) finally making it big. When he moved to Chelsea as a big money signing, all these lower teams got a financial pay-out, enough for one of them to build a new stadium (named after Drogba). Perhaps his late start is one reason why he opted to play for Cote d’Ivoire – he might have initially struggled to fight for a place in the French side. When he finally wins the Champions League, a good number of these friends and coaches from these early days join him to celebrate.
- Leaving Marseille was tough for Drogba. It was the team he’d supported when young, he was culturally comfortable in France, and he had bought a nice house on the coast. In some ways it represented the height of his ambitions. But looking back, the more difficult path to Chelsea was the only way he could have achieved global greatness.
- Drogba speaks excellent English now, so it’s hard to imagine him moving to England with barely a word of English. That caused some problems in the early days, notably with the sometimes-I-dive MoTD interview. Interestingly, Drogba it seems doesn’t speak bete, the language of his ethnic group in Cote d’Ivoire. I hadn’t actually realised this – I’d just assumed that with two bete parents, he would have heard a lot of the language. It shows how French really is the mother tongue for most Ivorian children in the big city.
- It’s not explicit, but I get the impression from the book that Drogba has been one of the players to pioneer having a personal support team. He has two sports scientists who have worked with him for many years who help him with his post-match recovery, putting him in better shape. I was intrigued by how much of a difference these little things apparently can make. Similarly, the discussion of just how important the pre-season period is for a future successful season was fascinating.
- Drogba’s wife Lala has been a vital support in his life, including during his difficult first year at Chelsea. The family seems to have really settled in England and they stayed there during his move to China and Turkey. Lala had a child before hooking up with Didier, and the boy has been adopted into the home alongside his biological children.