Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Drogba´s departure a blow for Africa

May 22, 2012

By Mark Gleeson

Celebrations down London´s King’s Road would have been matched for fervour and passion by those in Abidjan on Saturday night as Didier Drogba delivered for Chelsea.

The pride of an African striking the decisive blow on one of world football’s biggest stages has been reflected across the continent in the post UEFA Champions League final coverage.

It is typical of the forgiving nature of Africa that Drogba’s horrid penalty miss for his country in February’s African Nations Cup final against Zambia has been quickly forgotten amid all the euphoria.

His super hero status will have been completely restored by the role he played in the match in Munich; the late equaliser with that thumping header and then the calmness of converting the all-important kick in the shootout (especially having given away a missed penalty in extra time).

For years, Drogba has been a visible symbol of African potential and a powerful force for good in his own country, beset and beleaguered in recent years by civil strife.

But the news he is leaving Chelsea means African football faces losing the last of a trio of effective international ambassadors.

Drogba, Chelsea team mate Michael Essien and Russia-based Samuel Eto’o enjoyed a profile extending to every corner of the globe in a way no African footballer had before – not even the charismatic Roger Milla.

But the three are now past their peak and fading fast. Essien’s litany of injuries have left him a peripheral figure at Chelsea in recent seasons and Eto’o’s decision to go to Anzhi Makhachkala means while he is certainly not out of pocket, he is out of sight and mind.

Drogba’s next destination is unclear. There had been talk of China while joining Eto’o in Russia is another option. Even making the short trip across the channel to Paris St Germain is not beyond the realm of possibility.

But wherever he goes, it will not be Chelsea, the English Premier League or probably the UEFA Champions League. And resultantly, he will step off the world stage, leaving Africa with no ready replacement.

Sure, there are plenty of talented African footballers competing at a high level in Europe but none with the charismatic quality or star appeal that has so benefitted the continent in recent times.

Saturday’s celebrations are now tempered by this reality.

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