My school principal at Dobra High School would tease a school teacher and hitherto prolific football player on the decline: ‘Etse! Skop vier balle in en hou op!’ This appeal may have bearing on the Ivorian international superstar, after his superb performance for Chelsea last Saturday night.
Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich in a closely contested encounter. Didier Drogba announced his departure from the Bridge after eight years of unbroken service, during a Sunday parade displaying the champion’s trophy in an open top luxury bus. Drogba must have burst into tears as he announced his departure and transformed the party into suspension. ‘We will not be together next season… I had no great desire for this end, but I do not envisage sitting on the bench watching for others to play at a time when the team is looking at putting together a new team…it will be another adventure, as I am preparing myself for a great leap into the unknown,’ he said sadly.
Drogba saw the writing on the wall as Chelsea experimented with different formations that involved numerous younger players at the expense of older players, such as Drogba and Nicolas Anelka. But at times it would seem that the team was uncertain about what it really wanted: youth for its own sake or real talent? Look at the performance of Chelsea with and without Drogba and settle for a view. Look at Ryan Giggs of Manchester United, compared to their youthful players and tell the difference in performance. Look at the performance of Drogba in Chelsea’s campaign against Barcelona over the same cup they won. He was superb and single-mindedly went into the final determined to make a difference.
I did not give Chelsea much of a chance against Bayern Munich. Normally Chelsea is good at storming the opponents’ goal mouth, especially when Kalou, Marlouda and Drogba are on the squad. But lately they were not predictable. Even during their best of times they were not good at defending gains and that has made them tenuous opponents against virtually any team they played. This would have weighed in favor of Bayern Munich, who are known for consistency, precision and boast strikers in Thomas Muller, Irjen Robin and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but the match culminated in the penalty shoot-out that saw Chelsea edge out ahead their hosts.
Didier Drogba took a sad, but timely decision that must have demanded introspection. When indications are that you may have over-stayed your welcome in a house, you exit, even when risking the unknown. And he obeyed the philosophy of my school principal: “Skop vier balle in, en hou op.” The famous Edson de Nascimento, alias Pele, of Brazil did the same and to date, many people who watched his last game still believe that he was far from being over the hill.
Didier Drogba will be celebrated around the world as a man of integrity who took the right decision at the right time.