Didier drogba : "You mustn't be ridiculous when you play at the Vélodrome"

A return of Didier Drogba to the Vélodrome is never trivial. Even for a charity game. On the occasion of the Heroes’ match organized for his foundation and UNICEF on Wednesday, October 13 in Marseille, Didier Drogba took a few minutes to discuss his charitable commitment, his retirement, his relationship with Marseille and even Bamba Dieng. Guaranteed interview without question on his return to OM.

You come back to Marseille for the Heroes match, a charity meeting for UNICEF and your foundation. How was this event born? Where does this desire to get involved come from?
I have been in partnership with Orange for several years. When they initiated this gala match project with UNICEF, they did me the honor of involving the Didier Drogba Foundation. This match is therefore for the benefit of the Foundation and UNICEF, the objective being to collect as much funds as possible to build schools in Côte d’Ivoire. I have been involved in this field since 2007 for several reasons. First of all, I have always had that in me, surely because I lived in a big family. We are six brothers and sisters. We all lived in a common yard with my cousins, my aunts, between two houses. We have always had the spirit of sharing, benevolence was essential every day. It’s something that stuck with me, especially through my education. I always wanted to help, to give back. When the opportunity presented itself, when my sporting performances allowed me to reach a certain level and to have a voice that carries, I tried to take action and reach as many caring people as possible for me. ” support in this process.

“The goal is to make ten million people literate in five years. Education is my priority. ”

You have only been retired since 2018. For 11 years, you have managed these commitments in parallel with your career. Wasn’t it too complicated?
No, because I was and I am well surrounded. I have people who have invested themselves locally in Côte d’Ivoire, who have done a magnificent job. Now that I am retired, I have a lot more time, I am more involved. It’s something that I just love. For now, we are in Ivory Coast. But we are on a digital literacy program via an application that will be rolled out in other countries. It is set to expand, we have already signed several agreements with ministries of education in other countries. The goal is to educate ten million people in five years. Education is my priority. It will allow students and mothers to improve their daily lives.

Why education, precisely?
The objectives of the foundation are diverse. There is also health, we are currently building a health center in Côte d’Ivoire that we hope to open before the end of the year. We also bought a mobile health center to get as close as possible to the population. It is equipped with equipment to detect cardiovascular diseases which are causing a lot of damage in Africa. We focus on health and education. We built a school in a rural area with 100% success. Education is a priority, because it is a prerequisite for development, for stability in a country. It is important to have access to knowledge.

When we see these commitments, when we remember your call for peace in 2006, we say to ourselves that Didier Drogba in politics …
(He cuts.) Don’t go too far! No. People immediately make the amalgamation with George Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia, former Golden Ball, great football player. But no one makes the amalgamation between Zinédine Zidane and the Presidency of the Republic in France, right? Immediately, we see politics everywhere, but I am committed to doing good around me. No not necessarily. I do it because it’s something that just makes me feel good. It’s part of my development, of my happiness. It’s really simple, there is no ulterior motive. No plan on a comet. The goal is to be able to walk in the street and see that there are no more street children. It’s just a human fiber, there is no calculation behind it.

What does your retirement life look like between your foundation, the club you co-own, and your activities as a consultant?
I’m pretty busy, yes. In the immediate future, there are the elections of the Ivorian football federation scheduled for the end of December, the presentation of the Golden Ball at the end of the year as well. I have a lot of activities, but it is especially the foundation that takes a lot of my time because we have a lot of projects, and the requests are numerous. It requires total commitment.

To come back to this match, to do it in Marseille, was it obvious?
It could perhaps have been done elsewhere, but ideally, playing a match involving the Didier Drogba foundation and my partner Orange, all at the Vélodrome, what more could you ask for? If we go further, UNICEF has the same colors as OM too. (Laughs.) I am really very happy, we are already more than 15,000 seats sold (interview conducted Wednesday October 6, Editor’s note), I hope it will go up because it’s for a good cause. And yes I stand a little fit, because you shouldn’t be ridiculous when you play at the Vélodrome, it’s a certain pressure. And then my last match there was in 2010.

Let’s talk about it, it was December 8, 2010, in the Champions League with Chelsea. What memories do you have of your only match at the Vélodrome since your departure from OM?
I remember it very well. It was very, very, very, very difficult for me. It is one of the rare times that even if I had had the opportunity, I would not have been able to score. I would have preferred to pass rather than score. I was coming out of a long period of illness, I had had malaria, and then the recovery was difficult. But I really wanted to be there for this game. I couldn’t miss it.

There is also this gesture of your teammates during the warm-up, who let you enter the lawn alone without saying anything.
(Laughs.) I was so uncomfortable, but so. It’s so not me. But it remains a very nice moment obviously, very strong. I liked it, but I was uncomfortable. The ovation at the exit, we expect it, but it’s always special. These are moments that we would like to live all the time, in a loop. It is apart.

“Today, with the arrival of Sampaoli, there is a new philosophy, a new impetus. The start of the season is pretty good. I hope it will continue, in any case I am behind them. ”

What are your current links with Marseille and OM?
I have to follow all the games, as I have always done since I left. I follow the evolution of the club. Today, with the arrival of Sampaoli, there is a new philosophy, a new impetus. The start of the season is pretty good. I hope it will continue, in any case I am behind them. I hope he will do better than last year and that OM will find the C1.

Finally, we are talking about you right now in Marseille about Bamba Dieng. El-Hadji Diouf even said of him that “He’s a striker, a Didier Drogba” . It’s heavy to carry, but you validate this comparison?
It’s a bit early, maybe. But it was perhaps a little early too when I was compared to Jean-Pierre Papin at the time. Someday you have to start, and if he’s starting at that age today, why not. In any case, I wish him the best. It goes fast, very fast. When I see his performances, I tell myself that he has pep, he is skilful in front of the goal. He is in a team with a good dynamic, so why not. That’s all I wish for him.

Interview by Adrien Hémard
The ticket office for the Heroes match, Wednesday October 13 at 7 p.m. at the Stade Vélodrome, is still open.

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