Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba says the historic underperformance of African teams at Russia 2018 will benefit the continent in the long run and offers his own vision for the future.
“It was a difficult result for the African teams, but I think it is also good. It is important to see this, and witness this to understand that we need to change,” Drogba told RT in Moscow, where he has acted for the past month as a pundit and ambassador.
All five African sides – Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Senegal – did not qualify from the group stage of the World Cup finals.
Drogba says that even the one that came closest – Senegal, who missed out on a fair play tiebreaker – lacked a “quality spine” to guarantee success, despite fielding several star players.
But, while careful not to trade in cliches about the underachievements of a continent that appears to be falling behind on the biggest stage, despite continuing to produce world-class players, Drogba did say that the tournament mentality of some African teams remained weak.
“In West Africa, if you don’t get the result you expected, people go ‘It’s OK, next time I will do better. It’s OK, it’s God’s will,'” said Drogba.
Drogba, who has a stunning strike rate of 65 goals in 104 caps for his country, said that immigrating to France gave him an outsider’s perspective into his homeland’s mentality.
“I have this positive mentality as well, but at the same time, I hate losing. The chance I had, leaving Ivory Coast at age six, and going to Europe, and being surrounded by people who want to always perform, I have both these sides. I think mentally, we need to believe that we can go to the World Cup to win it, not to participate,” said Drogba.
Drogba, who says that his playing career has given him a chance to leave a more permanent legacy, has now invested hope in a forthcoming pan-African conference, in which the “key actors” – from the officials to coaches, to players – will get a chance to debrief after the first tournament since Spain ’82 in which no team reached the knockouts.
“We need to find out why it is happening, and the how we can change it, and when,” said Drogba.
But the former Chelsea ace believes that the baby shouldn’t be thrown out with the bathwater – and it is key not to overreact, or to blindly follow latest European trends, despite that continent’s dominance of the past four World Cups.
“We need to keep the creativity, the craziness, the power, the physique of African football, but we need to add the consistency and organization, not necessarily of European teams, but of experienced teams.”