Throwback: When Chelsea legend Didier Drogba took 59 seconds to help end a civil war in Ivory Coast

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FOOTBALL Throwback: When Chelsea legend Didier Drogba took 59 seconds to help end a civil war in Ivory Coast

Mark Kinyanjui 21:00 - 25.01.2024

Remniscing the time Didier Drogba stopped a civil war in Ivory Coast.

Didier Drogba ended his career as one of the greatest African footballers of all time, having created a legacy for himself at Chelsea over his nine-year stay at the club.

The Ivorian is remembered for his iconic career with the club where he scored 104 goals and registered 64 assists during his time in West London .

He was also a hero for his country. He captained the national team from 2006 until his retirement from the Ivory Coast team and is the nation's all-time top goalscorer with 65 goals from 105 appearances.

Furthermore, he is also regarded as a hero off the pitch , as it was his actions a year after joining the Blues for 24 million pounds , including a 59 second statement he made, that established him as a legend that will live long in the memory for generations to come .

In October 2005, the country’s World Cup hopes were hanging by a thread as they were contesting for a place at the competition against fierce competitors Cameroon.

Drogba and co travelled to Sudan knowing that if Cameroon failed to beat Egypt, they could leapfrog them with a win of their own and qualify for the 2006 World Cup for the first time.

The Ivorians, who also boasted other Premier League stars such as Didier Zokora, Emmanuel Eboue  and Kolo Toure, managed to beat Sudan 3-1.

The players then frantically walked into the dressing room to hurdle around a radio in order to update themselves with the developments of what was going on in the Cameroon match against Egypt.

The Indomitable Lions were drawing 1-1 with the seven time African champions, but with just minutes to go, they were awarded a penalty.

Luckily for Ivory Coast, Cameroon’s Pierre Wome missed from the spot, to allow them through to the World Cup for the first time in their history.

Almost 1,600 miles away, the war that began in 2002 between President Laurent Gbagbo's government and Guillaume Soro's rebel faction named ‘The New Forces of Ivory Coast ‘ continued to impact Ivorian lives.

As the players celebrated wildly, Drogba opted to take that opportunity to address the nation, pleading for an end to the war whilst the nation celebrated their achievement.

"Men and women of Ivory Coast. 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,” Drogba stated.

"We promised you that the celebrations would unite the people - today we beg you on our knees, " the striker continued before all players proceeded to fall on 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 finished.

The players then rose and sang: "We want to have fun, so stop firing your guns!"

The words had a huge effect, eventually helping the two warring sides to the negotiating table where a ceasefire was signed.

This wasn't the end of it.

The year after, while touring the rebel-held north of the Ivory Coast, he announced that the national team's match against Madagascar on 3 June 2007 would be played in the rebel stronghold of Bouake.

Being from the south himself, it was an attempt to bring the nation back together. It was very successful at the time, with a 5-0 victory capped by Drogba scoring the final goal to cause celebrations across the whole country.

The Ivory Coast national team, with Drogba as its spokesperson and leader, had brought peace - even if it was not to last. Violence again erupted five years later after disputed elections.

The 2015 AFCON winners managed to make the ongoing home knockout stages by the skin of their teeth having finished third in their group after a series of dissapointing results, including a shock 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea that left Drogba in a sombre mood.

As they prepare to face Senegal in an epic battle in their attempts to correct their tournament that has gone awry so far, they should take inspiration from Drogba’s actions and put a smile back on all their faces.

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