‘From no one to hero’ – Crystal Palace’s Zaha relives first visit to Cote d’Ivoire

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Having switched his allegiance to the west African nation in 2016, the talisman discussed the heroic welcome given to him and his love for Drogba

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha revealed that he was overwhelmed with the reception he received from fans on his return to Cote d’Ivoire for the first time in 20 years.

The Abidjan-born player last visited his country of birth when he was four years old but had to travel home for the Elephants’ final 2018 World Cup qualifying game at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny on November 11.

Though it ended 2-0 in favour of Morocco, the 24-year-old who played for the entire duration of the encounter described the reception he got right from the airport as a 'crazy' sight to behold.

"Leaving here as no one and coming back as a hero. And I don't feel like I have done anything yet," Zaha told Palace TV.

“Putting on the [Ivory Coast] shirt means a lot because they have so much love and belief in me, I haven't even done anything yet.

"It's crazy when I'm seeing that, they don't even know me, feeling the love when I get back from the airport like I'm a superstar or something.

"I appreciate all the support. It makes me want to do my best for the country because they support me like crazy."

"I was four when I came over so I don't really remember much about anything then. I spoke French but started forgetting it.

"It was hard to communicate with anyone in school in general. No one ever understood anything I said, basic things were just hard.

The 25-year-old forward who has scored three goals in six Premier League games this campaign said he is happy that he is at the stage where he can tell his septuagenarian parent to rest from work.

"My dad is 70 but he's the type of person that wants to get up at 6am and go for a jog. It's like, what are you doing? Chill out,” Zaha added.

"I feel proud because I am at that stage when I can be like, 'Dad you can retire now and chill out, you don't have to make the efforts you used to, you've done enough for me'. I'm happy I can do that for my parents."

The former Manchester United forward also disclosed his admiration for the two-time African Player of the Year who holds the record of the only African to have scored more than 100 goals in the English topflight with 104 goals.

He continued: "The only way people knew about Ivory Coast was because of Didier Drogba.

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"He has always been someone I've looked up to and it's just nice to know that he is from the place I'm from.

"It just showed me that I could make it the same way he did," he concluded.

Zaha will be aiming to increase his goal tally and help Roy Hodgson’s men grab maximum points in Saturday’s Premier League encounter against Stoke City in Selhurst Park.

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