Drogba wades into Sudan crisis with memories of how he helped end civil war in Ivory Coast

Chelsea legend Didier Drogba.

FOOTBALL Drogba wades into Sudan crisis with memories of how he helped end civil war in Ivory Coast

Joel Omotto • 14:58 - 02.05.2023

The Chelsea legend has urged for ceasefire among the warring factions as hostilities escalate in the country

Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba has waded into the ongoing war in Sudan, joining calls for a ceasefire, in a country that was the scene of his most iconic speech that helped end civil war in his nation.

Hundreds have been killed and thousands wounded in the clashes between Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Millions of Sudanese, unable to afford the inflated prices required to escape the battles, have sheltered in their homes with dwindling food and water and frequent power cuts, while nearly 80,000 have fled the country, leading to a humanitarian crisis that the world is struggling to deal with.

For Drogba, Sudan is a country that reminds him how he helped quell a similar situation back home when in 2005, Ivory Coast defeated the Sudanese to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, their maiden appearance at the global tournament.

“Since the beginning of this war, my thoughts are with my Sudanese brothers, my only visit there was a lifetime memory as we qualified there for our first ever FIFA World Cup in 2005. Prayers and thoughts for the families who died and those who are struggling because of this war,” Drogba said on Twitter.

“Africa is tired of these wars, our generation is tired of wars, it’s time to build our countries in peace for a healthy development and places were youths can grow up in peace.”

Drogba led Ivory Coast to their final World Cup qualifier against Sudan at Al-Merrikh Stadium, in the country’s second-largest city of Omdurman in October 2005, needing a win and hoping that Cameroon, top of the group by one point, would fail to beat Egypt for then to seal a World Cup ticket.

However, back home, Ivory Coast was hugely divided by a civil war that began in 2002 with President Laurent Gbagbo's government controlling the south and a rebel faction known as The New Forces of Ivory Coast, led by Guillaume Soro, controlling the north.

As fate would have it, Ivory Coast won 3-1 in Sudan while Cameroon and Egypt drew 1-1, Pierre Wome missing a last-minute penalty, to see the Indomitable Lions miss out on the World Cup while Ivory Coast sneaked through, sending raptures within the Ivorian camp.

Drogba would lead the team into the now famous dressing room speech urging people back home to use the historic moment to end war.

"Men and women of Ivory Coast," he began, as quoted by the BBC. "From the north, south, centre, and west, we 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." On cue, the players sank to their knees.

"The one country in Africa with so many riches must not descend into war. Please lay down your weapons and hold elections," Drogba urged.

It is a clip that would soon see the hostilities reduce as the warring camps began to engage, showing how sport can unite even the bitterest of enemies, and the Chelsea legend is perhaps mindful of the same regarding the situation in Sudan.