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THE INSIDE STORY OF DROGBA’S REJECTED PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS

One of the greatest rewards that could be hoped for by any top-notch footballer would be being celebrated for a successful long-term career. Usually, after these top players do farewell speeches after the last match which they feature in for their club sides, most of them still scrabble their way around the football environment for relevancy, whether directly or indirectly.

On the African continent, several sportsmen have ventured into a wide range of political roles both in the sporting federation and in government positions. To date, only a few have attained the highest political seat possible in a nation. Like Ahmed Ben Bella, who featured just once 4 Olympique Marseille in the Coupe de France tournament as a central midfielder in the match against FC Antibes in 1940, where he scored a goal, and that was his only appearance in football as a player. He later served as Algeria president from 1963 to 1965.

Another who held this position for his country was Ugandan light heavyweight boxer Idi Amin who was President of his country from 1971 to 1975. An African football icon followed this, George Weah, whose election to sit as Liberia’s President was followed by generous support from well-meaning individuals. He used to be the senator of Montserrado County in the northwest region of Liberia between 2015 to 2018 until he was eventually appointed as Liberia’s President almost immediately.

Ivory Coast football legend Didier Drogba has been on the headlines for several weeks as regards his bid to contest for the president of the Ivorian football federation (FIF). The former Chelsea Superstar and icon who accrued several titles and individual honors both at the club side and the international scene for Ivory Coast has been dealt a significant blow at his ambition to participate in the political affairs of his country’s Football Federation.

In late November 2018, after his retirement at the American club side Phoenix rising, Drogba was announced as the host for the 2019 Ballon d’Or gala, the 64th annual football awards ceremony organized by French football magazine.

THE POLITICAL PROJECT

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Amidst rowdy jingles of buzz and fanfare from his fans, news had it that Didier Drogba on the 1st of August submitted his candidacy bid to become the next president of the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF), which is an organization dedicated to governing football in Ivory Coast.

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Thousands of supporters stormed the federation headquarters in Abidjan to watch the 42-year-old football superstar submit his candidacy for the upcoming presidential election. One would have no pessimism towards his long-term reign from this kind of support if he eventually wins.

THE INVISIBLE HURDLE

It is required of the electoral committee of the election process to ensure individuals who submitted their request for candidacy was eligible before the voting process. The stipulated requirements were for each prospective aspirants to get at least three nominations out of the 14 Ligue 1 clubs and two nominations from the lower divisions from the country’s Football Association.

Also, each aspirant must be endorsed by at least any of the five available interest groups, which include the coaches, doctors, current players, former players, and referees. Drogba’s potential opponents include

  • The Associations secretary-general who later pulled out of the race after he put out allegations of bias and unfair treatment towards the election process
  • A former playing colleague Bonaventure Kalou whom he and Drogba both featured for Ivory Coast in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, who was also elected the Mayor of the Municipality of Vavoua in October 2018.

Incumbent president Augustine Sidy Diallo who has been in the role since 2011, also submitted his bid, current FIF vice president Idris Diallo, Kouadio Paul Koffi, and finally, first FIF vice president Sory Diabate.

While making his intentions of heading the football federation known, Drogba said, “It is something that interests me, I want to get more involved. I think more and more about it. I know Ivorian Football, I have played in selection for years, and I invested in an Ivorian football lately. Football is everyone’s sport. Football brings people together. Football unites, we can see it today with all these people gathered in front of the headquarters of the FIF. It is no secret that football is going badly, and that is why with my team, we are committed to contributing to the rebirth of Ivorian football.”

THE BIG BLOW

On the 27th of August, several days after Drogba submitted is candidacy bid for the association’s president, the electoral committee in charge of the country’s Association election announced that the former Chelsea striker did not get enough nominations to qualify him to contest for the position as a candidate.

This means Didier Drogba has been ruled out of the contest, which was expected to hold on the 5th of September. It was revealed that two of Drogba’s sponsors were also found to have backed one of his opponents, FIF first vice-president Sory Diabate. These sponsors are Ivorian top-flight side Africa sports FC and a body representing referees AMAF-CI. Also, it was announced that different officials from the same organizations had also signed Drogba’s papers with the FIF commission ruling they were not authorized to do so.

As regards Africa sports FC, a sporting club in Ivory Coast, the reason for its ineligibility was because the head of its football section gave his approval to Drogba. In contrast, the chairman of the same club backed Diabate. This meant that Drogba only had the backing of two top-flight Ivorian clubs instead of the three stipulated by FIF.

Drogba’s bid for presidency suffered a further blow when the Ivory coast footballers Association (AFI) also failed to support his candidacy. The action of the AFI drew attention from the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFpro). They condemned the act and, in turn, suspended the body as a member of their Association. Former Barcelona and Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure also condemned the action of the AFI, accusing it of breaching its mission and obligation.

The FIFpro, in a letter to AFI, said that this “exceptional intervention” was motivated by extreme urgency. It further read, “your decision shows a flagrant mission of this obligation and a total lack of consideration for your members. The choice is the result of various 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. The suspension of the AFI by FIFpro means that the AFI immediately loses all its rights as a FIFpro member, and in particular, it’s right to income,” the letter said.

RESCUSITATION IN SIGHT?

After Drogba’s bid for the presidency was rejected, Muhamodou Sangare, a member of Drogba’s team, said in an interview that he wasn’t surprised by FIF’s decision to reject Drogba’s bid. He stated that they were, however, unfazed as they will react to conform to the texts which surround the election.

Paul Koffi Kouadio is another candidate alongside Drogba, who had his bid rejected. They both, however, have a 5-day window starting from the date of their bid rejection to appeal the electoral body’s verdict, else incumbent vice president Diabate and former FIF vice president Yacine Idris Diallo who are the only two cleared for the vote, would emerge as the only candidates for the September 5 election.

Drogba, who played for the Ivory Coast national football team between 2002 and 2014, is also the country’s all-time top scorer with 65 goals in 105 games. He also played 5 African Cup of Nations tournaments in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2013 and 3 World cups in 2006, 2010, and 2014 before retirement.

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