President's Award winner Didier Drogba: 'I'm really proud'

Didier Drogba has spoken of the great honour he feels in joining the list of illustrious names who have won the UEFA President's Award.

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Former Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba – one of the greatest players ever to come out of Africa – received the 2020 award from UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin at the UEFA Champions League draw ceremony in Geneva on Thursday.

The 42-year-old, described by Mr Čeferin as "a leader and pioneer", follows famous names such as Sir Bobby Charlton, Eusébio, Raymond Kopa, Johan Cruyff, Francesco Totti, David Beckham and Eric Cantona in winning the prestigious honour.

The President's Award recognises outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities. In addition to enjoying a superb playing career, Drogba has undertaken significant charity and goodwill work, campaigning tirelessly in particular to help improve the lives of children in developing countries.

"I'm really proud, because it's representing 20 years of football," Drogba said, "and a lot of trophies, a lot of great memories. When you see the list of players who have won it before, you can be proud to be among those players."

Drogba on President's Award honour
Drogba on President's Award honour

Spreading the right message

"I think that, as football players, we represent society," he reflected. "Football is a reflection of society, of what's happening in our lives. It's important for us to be role models. It's important for us to spread the right message. I think that's what we have to do, and that's what I've been doing all my career."

"We all know that Didier Drogba was one of the best players of all time," said Aleksander Čeferin at the presentation ceremony. "But it is not enough to be a super player – you have to do something more. He never forgot where he's coming from. He's a great man, and that's why he deserves this award."

Chelsea's Champions League hero

Drogba enjoyed a 20-year career as a prolific goalscoring front-runner with clubs in England (Chelsea), France (Le Mans, Guingamp, Marseille), Turkey (Galatasaray), China (Shanghai Shenhua), Canada (Montreal Impact) and the United States (Phoenix Rising).

Didier Drogba: UEFA President's Award 2020
Didier Drogba: UEFA President's Award 2020

He earned legendary status with his match-winning contribution for Chelsea in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final against Bayern München – grabbing a dramatic late equaliser to force extra time, and firing home the decisive spot kick in the ensuing penalty shoot-out to give the Blues their first ever Champions League title.

Born in Abidjan, Drogba is an iconic figure in his native Ivory Coast. He scored 66 goals in 106 appearances for the national team and was instrumental in his country reaching the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time in 2006.

Drogba scored the Ivory Coast's historic first World Cup goal in the finals in Germany in the group stage encounter with Argentina, and went on to take part in two further tournaments.

"I always use my career as an example," Drogba said. "Yes, you can be talented, you can be gifted, but without work it's difficult to achieve something. I worked really hard to maintain a certain quality of play."

Helping and supporting children

During his career and since his retirement in 2018, Drogba has been firmly committed to helping and supporting youngsters to fulfil their dreams and aspirations, either in sport or in other walks of life, and created the Didier Drogba Foundation in 2007.

Among its various projects, the foundation has provided educational assistance, for example by building schools, which ultimately gives children a route out of poverty and a way forward into a bright future.

Drogba is also currently enrolled in UEFA's Executive Master for International Players (MIP), a programme that aims to give former elite players the tools and resources to build careers in football after their playing days are over.