by Dickson Kalu
As Gary Lineker tweeted: ”Farewell Didier Drogba. You have enthralled us, occasionally enraged us, but always entertained us.”
With a heavy heart, but great gratitude to God for £24M well spent, I will attempt to thank Didier Drogba for 8 invaluable years on the employ of European Champions, Chelsea FC.
I know the word ‘legend’ has been brandished many times undeservedly that it seems to have lost its adjectival appeal, but I won’t be afraid to use it to describe Drogba because he has earned it to the 9th degree.
The journey of 96 months to attain legendary status commenced in June 2004 after Chelsea ‘Sugar daddy’ Roman Abrahamovic put his money where his mouth was, by splashing the millions to sign Drogba from Olympic Marseille. He had just had a stellar campaign which culminated in him being best player in the French League and got to the final of the then UEFA Cup.
His first year at West London was fruitful as he played a crucial role enroute a League Cup win and Chelsea’s first League title in 50 years.
He led Chelsea to another League triumph the next year. He got an individual recognition for his efforts when he was crowned African footballer of the year in 2006.
In 2007, he won over some haters and convinced cynics. He did so by emerging English premier league highest goal scorer with 20 goals. He further scored in the FA and League Cup Finals, as Chelsea grabbed a Cup double. First, he scored a brace to see off the Arsenal boys in the League Cup Final. He then got the lone goal against Manchester United to clinch the FA Cup.
The encomiums showered on him showed he had finally arrived. As the adage in Igbo land goes: ”Mberede nyiri Dike, Mberede ka ejikwa amara Dike” which means, ”Great men fail in calamities, but calamities also show the stuff great men are made off”. Drogba had proved his mettle in both finals.
But the Ivorian was far from perfect. As Gary Lineker tweeted, Drogba enraged Chelsea fans in the UEFA Champions league final against rivals Manchester United in 2008. He got red-carded for slapping Vidic. In the ensuing penalty shootout, John Terry had an infamous miss that broke the hearts of Chelsea fans. The conspiracy theory has been that Drogba would have taken the kick ahead of Terry, had he kept a cool head.
The next season wasn’t so rosy for him. He was confined to the bench for long spells. He got his Mojo back in time to score in the FA cup final and was named Africa’s best again (2009).
Mr. Wembley, as he was now fondly addressed after his FA cup success, lived up to the hype in 2010. He scored for the umpteenth time in the FA Cup Final. That was after his 29 goals (which made him EPL top scorer) were instrumental to the Blues’ League title. That was their first League and Cup double.
Let’s fast forward to 2012. Drogba must have noticed his diminishing influence. He asked for a two-year contract extension. The folks at Cobhams offered only one year. You wouldn’t blame them. He was 34. His goals return the previous year wasn’t so impressive. Talks were deadlocked. Drogba forged on.
He scored his 100th premier league goal in March in a 1-0 win over Stoke city. He became the first African to reach a century of goals in the Premiership. That was to be his last goal in the EPL.
Eighteen days ago, he became the first player to score in four different FA Cup Finals, as he grabbed the winner against Liverpool. More was to come from where that came from.
Last Saturday was the date. It had been heralded as his last game for the club. Will he stay or will he leave the club that has been his home for 8 years? We were like the audience in a game show. He was the host. We were guessing. He kept us guessing. He knew the answer. Even his teammates were in the dark. The man who loves garnering attention knew it was best to leave with the ovation loudest. He signed off in style.
First, he equalized in the 88th minute (the enthralling part); then he fouled Robben for a penalty in extra time (that enraged us); then he scored the decisive penalty (that was entertainment to many). That proved to be his last kick for Chelsea. What a way to go. Imagine your last kick delivering the elusive and prestigious Champions league. Steven Spielberg couldn’t have written a better script.
Many, if not all, will miss this charismatic fellow. His teammates will miss his dressing and room presence; fans will miss his wild celebrations, power, aerial ability, hold-up play; his opponents will miss the challenge he brings to bear; even the grass will miss his theatrics.
In all, he scored 157 goals in 351 appearances to rank 4th in Chelsea’s all-time highest goals scorer list.
You have given joy to millions of people all over the world. May you also find happiness in your future pursuit.
You will forever be in our hearts, Didier.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.