JOHANNESBURG — Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba keeps reiterating the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations will be his last edition, as he seriously contemplates retirement from international engagement by the summer of 2014 after the Fifa World Cup, which he hopes to play with the Elephants.
After chasing the continent’s premier football title for 10 years without success, the Drogba-led brilliant generation may implode after the ongoing Afcon due to age factor and grudges from fans and officials, who believe time is getting ripe to try out the younger generation. If this should be the former Chelsea talisman’s ultimate continental showpiece then much is expected of him, to crown his rich and inspiring adventure with the Ivorian side, which won its first and only Afcon title in 1992 in Senegal.
However, the 34-year-old striker has been mediocre so far at the South Africa 2013, prompting his coach Sabri Lamouchi to pull him out of the starting line-up against Tunisia in Group D’s second match day and opting for Anzhi Makhachkala’s top scorer Lacina Traoré.
The general opinion that has justified Drogba’s low showing is the Chinese Premier League offseason that has kept him from competitive actions for months, but might not be enough, in my opinion, to exonerate him should the Elephants fail to clinch the title once more this time.
Drogba needs to knock himself out and push his side more like in previous competitions and help to impose the Elephants’ awe over any adversary team crossing their path in the rest of the tournament if he wants to leave a bright and enduring legacy as he bows out of African football. Although, there’s no denying he’s been a great professional footballer, but many back home in Abidjan will tell you he did all that in Europe and not “for us”.
Playing Nigeria will set a personal challenge for Drogba, who threaded a low ball in between Vincent Enyeama’s legs to knock the Super Eagles from the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana. He might nurse the guts to repeat that feat tomorrow even though games don’t deliver unique fate.
If the Ivorians crash out from the Afcon 2013 tomorrow, local fans will blame one person more than others — Didier Drogba — for failing to help the outfit sail to a safe shore like he did for Chelsea against Bayern Munich months ago in the Uefa Champions League final.
Drogba is aware of all these and is simply working and thinking, but what can he personally do more than all he has been doing?