This shout from Martin Tyler will forever be in the minds of every Chelsea fan, because the next thing we saw was the ball in the net. Due to his heroics in the Champions League final and consistent scoring over the years, Didier Drogba is respected as one of the greatest strikers in history of football by fans and rivals alike. If asked about his impressive stats and abilities, every fan who watched him play can recite it to you for hours without any break. As football fans, we can say that Drogba has won our hearts.
However, there is a life of Drogba to which we never paid much attention to. A life beyond the glory of professional football . It’s a life of a philanthropist, a life of the most powerful man of Ivory Coast. It is not the influence of power but the power of influence.
Behind those headline grabbing goals, Drogba quietly dedicated himself to helping the world’s sick and needy. He quietly kept raising money for donation to Red Cross and orphanages in his native country. He started his own foundation with a goal of helping the needy. Praise kept coming in from fellow players like Essien and Gervinho. His influence in Ivory Coast was now second to none. Then he finally came into the media glare for stopping a 5 year civil war in his country. By 2010 Drogba made it to Time list of world’s 100 most influential people.
But why did Drogba do all this?
He had the chance to play for France when he was young. He had the money to enjoy his life and forget about the the bad state of affairs in his country. The reason behind all this charity is that Drogba never forgot his humble background. He remembered that these riches were not a part of his life when he was young.
“The money came after my education, after I became a man.”- Drogba
Its not the money which made Drogba feel rich. It was the experience of thousands of people in Ivory Coast going crazy in his presence which did.
All the money which DD earned from endorsements from sponsors went into his Foundation- The Didier Drogba Foundation. The Foundation holds Charity balls which is supported by likes of David Beckham and Kobe Bryant. The Charity balls have managed to raise £1 million so far.
Drogba said that he felt more nervous about these charity events than going on the football field. He had to call people and convince them to support his cause. Drogba even donated all the profits from DVD sales of “ The Incredible Destiny of Didier Drogba ”and the autobiography book to the foundation.
In 2009 a wall collapsed in the National Stadium, during a World Cup qualifier, which killed 19 people. While visiting the injured, DD met a boy who was suffering from later stages of leukaemia. The boy was brought to Europe for treatment, but he still lost his life.
Earlier, the brother of Drogba’s best friends, Stephane died of leukaemia because it was not possible to get a visa for the 15 year old boy. These instances along with the cost of £125,000 for the boys’ treatment, made DD realize that a hospital needed to be built in his country. Till date £3 million has been invested by Drogba alone for this ambitious project in the city of Abidjan.
“Didier is doing an amazing job. The way he is affected by the sick children, you can tell that he really cares and that he really wants to help. He loves his country and his country loves him !“- John Terry
Drogba is undoubtedly a hero in his country. One liter bottles of bock, a locally brewed beer, is known as Drogbas. Young Ivorian men dress like him and the musicians write songs about him. The life in Ivory Coast stops when Drogba is playing a game.
After proposing to play a World Cup Qualifier match in Bouaké, the capital of the rebellion, Drogba brought 5 years of civil war to a halt as the country united to support their national football team. When the team qualified for the World Cup, everyone forgot about their problems as the rebels and the government united, filling the streets with happily dancing people.
“Many Ivorians need it, he has always been an example for us.”- Gervinho on Drogba help to infrastructure development
Today, Drogba is symbol of hope and peace in Ivory coast. This is more than what any footballer even dreams of. Drogba joined a reconciliation commission in 2011, designed to heal wounds after the violent post-election crisis in Abidjan. Along with that Drogba is United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador. We can only hope to see another selfless footballer like Drogba, who in spite of his riches which he says he loves to enjoy, went ahead with ambitious projects of making his home country a better place. Drogba is indeed The Charity King!