If you asked me, between Didier Drogba and Cote D’Ivoire’s national team, who needs who more, I would not be able to answer, because I don’t stomach any ready response to such a tricky question.
The games being played by Cote D’Ivoire’s new Coach François Zahoui and the Premier League top scorer are turning into a hide-and-seek competition. Fans are still awfully confused, pundits are still aimlessly guessing.
First, it was Drogba who declined the coach’s call up to feature in the match against Rwanda in the first round of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. The Chelsea talisman had given mental and physical fatigue as reasons to cower from the Elephants for a while, and perhaps the local coach had deemed the action as a snub.
Now, Drogba says he is ready for a comeback, to have fun with mates and fans, but the coach curtly says, “No mister, I alone can decide when you should rejoin us,” absolutely leaving out the 32-year-old striker from the 20-man list to face off against Rwanda on October 9.
Drogba realised this while he partied away in France inaugurating Levallois SC's (his first professional club) stadium, which now bears his name. He confided to reporters that he could not understand why he did not receive a call up. The coach, on the other end in Abidjan, seemingly had no time to lecture the press on why he abandoned the most important Ivorian player this time around.
Really, Zahoui wants to combat Drogba’s indispensability and change the mindset of millions of football fans in the West African nation who believe that without Drogba there is nothing, and show them that the Elephants still possess other valuable players, who deserve love and attention too.
The no Drogba, no Cote D’Ivoire mantra should completely fade from lips and concentration should be on the team as a bloc and on any possible success that can be derived. This is the philosophy of the new Cote D’Ivoire boss and Drogba unknowingly provoked him by declining his first summon.
But how long will this cold war live and who will be the eventual loser?
Drogba perhaps has nothing more to prove to Cote D’Ivoire fans. He has put in all his best to get the national team as far as possible, but that best has never been good enough, to the disappointment of uncountable local football lovers. No single trophy has been won under the brilliant reign of Drogba and co in the national team. The awesome generation of players is aging and waning, Zahoui may be very conscious of this.
Many back home no longer expect a miracle from Drogba, yet they can’t turn elsewhere. Also, Drogba himself knows his career came to life via the national team. Last week, he told a French paper that he had shunned the French national team, for which he could have played being a holder of French nationality, because the likes of Thierry Henri, Djibril Cisse and David Trezeguet would have overshadowed his star from rising and shining.
So, coming to play for the Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire was a calculated move to find a spot from which to shoot, which he truly found, but through hard work and dedication.
But Drogba has long arisen and flying in big spheres, with the national team still crawling in search of a true value of its supposed reputation of a star-studded squad. Should we blame Zahoui for thinking post-Drogba? I don’t know, but if he succeeds in taking the risk of bypassing Drogba, his fame will spread beyond slim borders.