Didier Drogba honoured by Football Writers
Didier Drogba was honoured by the Football Writers’ Association at a gala dinner in London last night.
The annual event, which takes place at the Savoy Hotel, saw Drogba presented with the FWA’s Tribute Award, given to somebody who has made an outstanding contribution to the national game.
A string of well-known figures from within the world of football were in attendance, including England manager Roy Hodgson, while Petr Cech, a man who has played alongside the Ivorian for 10 years, and Thierry Henry, paid tribute to Drogba.
The Chelsea striker took to the stage after being introduced by FWA chairman Andy Dunn, who described Drogba as a ‘trailblazer’, not just for his abilities as a player but also the charity work he does with his Foundation in Africa, before a video capturing some of his finest moments was played to the audience.
On receiving his award, Drogba spoke about his relationship with the British press.
‘This award is very special for me because in the first few months when I came to England I never thought that one I’d be standing here talking to you and receiving this award,’ he said.
‘When players come to England they are scared of the press, but after many interviews I learnt how to talk to you, understand you and we’ve enjoyed a good relationship. That, for sure, is one of the reasons why my football changed. I felt more comfortable on the pitch because we understood each other.’
Drogba was supported at the event by directors and staff from the club, and his teammate Cech spoke about what he brings to the dressing room.
‘If you know Didier well you’ll know he’s a very emotional man, but emotional in a good way,’ said the goalkeeper. ‘He loves the game, he has a great passion for the game and he uses it in every match.
‘Didier is one of those players you would love to have in your team because you can always rely on him, and that’s more important than anything. If, one day, I have to go to war, Didier is exactly the type of player, or soldier, you would like to have on your side.’
Given the respective roles played by Drogba and Cech in our 2012 Champions League final triumph, it was no surprise the subject remained a constant theme.
Having thanked Cech for his tribute, Drogba returned the compliment, and praised the goalkeeper for his performance in Munich.
‘There are so many times when people talk about me scoring the winning penalty in Munich, but I always tell them there would have been no winning penalty if you weren’t there,’ said Drogba.
‘In the final I scored the equaliser, but you made some great saves that night and I don’t think you get enough credit for what you did. Strikers are the ones people talk about but, for me, you are the one who won us the final. That’s why I had to run to you when I scored the penalty, I didn’t run to you by mistake
In the programme for the event, Jose Mourinho paid his own personal tribute.
‘I was very strong to persuade my club to pay such an amount for him and I think we can already say he is the best-value signing for Chelsea in relation to what he has done for the club over so many years, and he is not finished yet,’ said the Portuguese.
‘I know what he means as a player and a person. That is why this combination of the player and the person is so amazing.’
Henry and Drogba were in direct competition as Chelsea and Arsenal fought for Premier League supremacy shortly after the Ivorian moved to Stamford Bridge in 2004, but the Frenchman, a recipient of the award in 2011, was full of kind words, even alluding to Drogba’s impressive goalscoring record over the Gunners in his speech.
‘You were one hell of a player and still are, you scored some goals I could only dream of scoring,’ said the Frenchman. ‘You’ve won everything with Chelsea so, from the bottom of my heart, maximum respect.
‘On top of everything, because of what you are doing in Africa you are also a role model and an ambassador. Not only do you do it on the field but also outside the field. This is your night, enjoy it and make sure you retire soon for Philippe Senderos.’
It was the second consecutive year in which the Blues were recognised at the ceremony, with Mourinho honoured last January. Our former midfielder Frank Lampard took the prize in 2010.