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Footballers turn their back on Drogba

FOOTBALL By Robin Toskin and AFP | July 26th 2020
Chelsea's Didier Drogba reacts after a missed opportunity during their Champions League soccer match against Schalke 04 at Stamford Bridge in London September 17, 2014. [REUTERS/Andrew]

The shocking rejection of Ivory Coast football great Didier Drogba by fellow former players in his quest to become the president of Ivorian FA lifts the lid on the warped politics dogging retired athletes in Africa.

The Ivory Coast players’ Union decided last week to not sponsor Drogba to run for the presidency of the Ivorian federation (FIF) in the September 5 election and instead backed Idriss Diallo, the current FIF vice-president.

Candidates need an endorsement from one of five Ivorian football organisations to enter the presidential race.

With only the association of medical staff yet to announce their endorsement, the former Chelsea and Marseille striker does not have a sponsor.

The rejection mirrors the specter of footballers across Africa notoriously being elbowed out of leadership positions whenever they offer themselves for election.

On Friday, global footballers’ union, FIFPro, took an unprecedented move to suspended the Ivory Coast Footballers Association (AFI) for failing to endorse Drogba’s bid.

Despite the former Chelsea striker’s long record of building schools in Ivory Coast, a football academy, like Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama is doing in Busia, Drogba has also donated £3 million pounds (Sh414,194,340) to build a hospital.

The former national football team captain used his cult-like following to stop a 5-year civil war when the loyalists of Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara battled for Ivorian leadership.

Under the captainship of Drogba, the Ivory Coast national football team was credited with helping to secure a temporary truce when it qualified for the 2006 Fifa World Cup and brought warring parties together.

He has also donated his clinic in Abidjan for the treatment of Coronavirus patients yet Drogba got not even a single vote from the association of fellow players. His crime? He did not “play his politics well” – according to multiple sources.

In a letter, seen by AFP, dated Thursday and addressed to the president of the AFI Cyrille Domoraud, a former Ivory Coast defender, FIFPro said it was suspending his organisation “with immediate effect.”

In the scathing letter, FIFPro attacked what it called the “iniquitous decision” of the AFI saying it is likely “to have a negative impact, in the Ivory Coast and beyond, on the defence of footballers, the chief objective of FIFPro and its members”.

FIFPro said: “Your decision shows a flagrant omission of this obligation and a total lack of consideration for your members.

FIFPro said the choice “is the result of various serious statutory breaches committed by the AFI in recent years” and had failed to take into account the “strictly democratic expression of the will of Ivorian footballers.”

On top of the endorsement of one of the special interest groups, candidates must also be nominated by three of the 14 Ligue 1 clubs and two from the lower divisions.

Drogba played in three World Cups with the Ivory Coast and twice helped them to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, also earning cult status among fans for his exploits with Chelsea in the Premier League and Champions League.

Kenya Footballers Welfare Association (KEFWA) Secretary General Jerry Santo said the Drobga situation is a complex one, but which has put the footballers’ family in an awkward situation.

“I think we need to put into context what has been going on in the Ivorian players’ union. While Drogba is a founding member of the Union, the other candidate (Idriss Diallo) has been close to the association and sold his vision to the players long before their own stepped forward,” Santo offers.

“An argument for both can be advanced, but I think Drogba may have thought he would be the automatic choice. He may have taken it lightly while the Diabate was working with the union to advance their organisation’s needs. So it was going to be difficult to go back on their promise to Diabate.

“And this should be a lesson to even for us here in Kenya. It is not just enough to be a member of the Union.

“One has to actively participate to uplift the welfare of fellow members. Quite often in Kenya, players stay away from the game only to show up when elections are called. It doesn’t work that way,” Santo said.

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