Now the war in Ivory Coast is over, I can build my country a £3m hospital — Chelsea star DIDIER DROGBA
Now the war in Ivory Coast is over, I can build my country a £3m hospital
— Chelsea star DIDIER DROGBA
DIDIER DROGBA has a drive and determination on the football field that few professional players can match.
But the Chelsea striker has more lofty ambitions than simply trying to win shiny trophies for a club in west London.
This is a man who has taken on the responsibility of rebuilding his entire country.
If Drogba ran to become president of the Ivory Coast, it is thought he would win by a landslide.
But he wouldn’t do it, because he believes he can achieve so much more through football.
When Drogba landed with the national squad in the Ivory Coast’s largest city Abidjan on Monday after losing the African Cup of Nations final to Zambia on penalties, tens of thousands of people lined the streets.
Drogba had missed a 70th-minute penalty which would have won them the competition but the West African country still hailed the captain and his team-mates as if they were the champions.
Following last year’s post-election civil war, which cost more than 3,000 lives, football brought together a country that had been on its knees.
Drogba is the leading symbol of the re-birth.
Through the Didier Drogba Foundation, set up five years ago, his priority is to get a £3million hospital built in Abidjan.
After that, a number of satellite clinics will be constructed in different parts of the country.
The civil unrest halted Drogba’s plans but now the development is up and running again with the hope it could be open by the end of the year.
In a country where the average life expectancy is just 54, such a major medical facility cannot come soon enough.
Every penny the Chelsea star earns from his commercial activities with the likes of Nike, Pepsi and Samsung goes into the foundation.
Money is also raised through fundraising events such as an annual charity ball, which is taking place at The Dorchester hotel in London next month.
As Drogba walked round the site in one of the poorest suburbs of Abidjan, he spoke passionately to The Sun about his dream.
He said: “I am already excited. I can’t wait for this hospital to be built.
“But for the war it would have been open now. We are going to do it, we are going to work hard.”
The inspiration to build the hospital came out of a series of tragedies.
Nearly three years ago, just before Drogba played a World Cup qualifier for the Ivory Coast against Malawi, a wall collapsed at the national stadium claiming 19 lives.
In addition, a cousin, Stephan, and a young boy, Nobel, who he befriended while visiting stadium disaster victims, died of leukaemia.
Drogba said: “When I first saw Nobel in the same hospital as those who were injured from the game, I saw the conditions were not the best if you wanted to save a kid from leukaemia.
“We sent him to Europe and he fought for more than a year but didn’t make it.
“My cousin had leukaemia as well and on the same day I managed to get a visa for him to go to France to get treatment, he died.
“We need this hospital because we want to be able to get help for people in Abidjan. To fly to another country is very difficult for kids when they are sick.
“There are good doctors but they need help.
“The hospital is my big ambition but it was put back by the war.
“We had to wait for the situation to be better and also for people to be ready to go to work. So we are going to start now. It will cost more than £3million but the government will help us.
“The first few years are the most important. People from the region will be responsible for maintaining it and keeping it clean and nice.
“The problem is not the building of the hospital, the problem is taking care of it.”
It will be all hands on deck to complete the job in such a short time but Drogba’s influence gets things done.
He said: “I’m blessed — I’m lucky because my voice can be heard a little bit more than other voices.
“I can ring the president if I need something but I prefer not to do that. I prefer to fight and do things by myself.
“It’s not written anywhere that I have to do this but I do it because I know that I will never get this feeling in France or England or anywhere.
“It no longer feels like a country that was in a civil war recently but, believe me, if you had been here a few months ago, you would realise.
“The good thing that Abidjan and the Ivory Coast has is that we always try to take the positives from a bad situation — that’s our mentality.”
So what does Drogba think when people say he should run for president? After all, he will be 34 next month and his top-flight football career will not go on for ever.
He smiled: “That’s emotions — I’m not qualified for that. I like the place where I am now.
“I don’t have any political opinion. I can say what I want.
“I don’t want to be blocked in a political way where I have to speak in one direction to please some people.
“Today my situation is good because when I speak, everybody listens. If I decided to do politics only half the country will listen.
“Am I more powerful the way I am? Maybe.
“I was sad we lost in the African Cup of Nations final but seeing all the people at the airport was special when you remember the situation here not so long ago.
“We were 23 players out of 20million in the Ivory Coast and we were united for one cause.
“Knowing how difficult it is for a country to start again and to see all the people out there was amazing. It’s a sign, it’s a big sign.
“It shows us that reconciliation in the country is possible and football can do it.”
For details on the foundation or to support Didier’s charity event on March 10 go to thedidierdrogbafoundation.com or follow @Fondationdrogba on Twitter.
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