Retired football legend Didier Drogba has been picked as the recipient of the 2020 UEFA President’s Award.
The former Chelsea forward is the second African-born winner of the accolade after the great Eusébio, who received it in 2009. The award recognizes outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities.
“Didier is a hero to millions of football fans for his achievements throughout his glittering playing career. He is a leader – a pioneer. I will remember him as a player for his skill, strength and intelligence, but above all for his insatiable appetite to succeed – a trait which is just as present in his desire to help others off the field of play,” said UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin in a statement.
It added, “The UEFA Champions League has become the greatest club competition in the world, partly due to our clubs being able to attract the best players from around the world. We have been lucky to have seen the likes of George Weah, Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba play at the very highest level.
“They in turn, have blazed a trail for African footballers and have given inspiration to a whole new generation who look to follow in their footsteps.”
— UEFA (@UEFA) September 29, 2020
The 42-year-old who will collect the UEFA President’s Award in Geneva during Thursday’s UEFA Champions League draw, began his career in France where he played for Le Mans, Guingamp and Marseille.
However, it was following his move to Chelsea that he started to establish himself as one of the greatest forwards of the 21st century. Reacting to the win, Drogba said, “To have won a Champions League, to have played and scored for my country at a World Cup – these are things I could only have dreamed of when I was a child.”
He continued, “There are so many children in the developing world who have the potential to become not only footballers, but also doctors, teachers and engineers. This is why it is so important to help and support our youngsters to let them fulfil their dreams and aspirations.”
A year and a half before playing my first @championsleague from @uefa_official I was a substitute @lemansfc.officiel in second division,
Use to watch those Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday games with my friends and dreaming that one day I’ll hear this anthem. pic.twitter.com/Z3fLtlRerw
— Didier Drogba (@didierdrogba) September 29, 2020
After retiring from playing in November 2018, following spells in China, Turkey, Canada and the United States, Drogba returned to education and is currently enrolled on UEFA’s Executive Master for International Players (MIP) programme – a step he considers key to enabling his transition to a successful post-playing career.
“I had been thinking, ‘How can I keep having the same impact without playing, without using my physique, my legs and my heart?’ The best way was to use my brain and think about how to stay in football and go into administration. That is why I am here – to get all the tools and skills needed to improve not only as a person but as an ambitious man who wants to contribute to the development of football,” he explained.
Previous winners of the UEFA President’s Award include legendary names such as Sir Bobby Charlton, Eusébio, Raymond Kopa, Johan Cruyff, Francesco Totti, David Beckham and Eric Cantona.
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