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Football4Good in history: Didier Drogba and the Ivorian Civil War
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Looking back to 2005, the role that the Ivorian football team, and in particular Didier Drogba, played on and off the pitch in healing the rifts of the Ivorian Civil War exemplifies the potential sport holds to overcome conflict and bring communities together.

Having just qualified for the 2006 World Cup, the Ivorian team sang and danced joyously. Conducting the team’s cacophonous celebrations was Ivory Coast’s number 11. The year was 2005 and Didier Drogba, or “Didi” as he is known, was singing from the very top of an already glittering professional career. Not only was he leading the line at one of Europe’s biggest clubs in Chelsea, he had just booked his place at the pinnacle of competition, helping end his country’s 76-year wait to qualify for its first ever World Cup.

After a 3-1 victory in Sudan to secure their place, scenes of jubilation from within the dressing room were relayed to the world. Amidst this outpouring of euphoria, then captain Cyril Domoraud, had invited a member of the media to join them. While filming for Radio Télévision Ivoirienne, Didi was handed a microphone.

Men and women of the Ivory Coast…” he began earnestly, momentarily quelling the celebrations of his teammates. With an unwavering gaze, he looked straight into the lens and continued: “From the north, south, centre, and west. We proved today that all Ivorians can co-exist and play together with a shared aim: to qualify for the World Cup.

Drogba stood surrounded by his teammates, a group hailing from all corners of what had become a divided country, their arms draped around him and each other. They stood in silence, nodding in unwavering unison to acknowledge their striker’s every word.

The player, idolised like a king then dropped to his knees, followed one by one by his loyal teammates. The players raised their hands to their heads, their palms turned towards the camera, echoing Drogba’s plea: “Pardonnez!” – “Forgive! Forgive one another!” Over the outbreak of desperate cries, from Kolo Touré, Emmanuel Eboué to Arouna Koné, from Muslim and Christian, to Baolé and Bété, Drogba begged his fellow Ivorians: “Forgive! Forgive! Forgive! The one country in Africa with so many riches must not descend into war. Please lay down your weapons. Hold elections. All will be better.

Rising to their feet, smiles once again spreading across their faces, the group resumed their jubilatory song to the same tune, however this time with revised lyrics: “We want to have fun, so stop firing your guns.”

  • Read the full article here
  • This article appeared in FOOTBALL4GOOD Magazine Issue 10/April 2019. Read more stories from the field of football for good here.

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Côte d’Ivoire
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Africa
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