PARIS: Didier Drogba walked at six months, left home at five and fell in love with the woman who was to become his wife at the tender age of 17.
Those are some of the landmark events covered in an account of the Ivorian footballer’s extraordinary life about to be published in cartoon form in France.
Editions are also planned for Britain, where Drogba is still idolized by supporters of his former club Chelsea; Brazil, where he is due to play in the World Cup later this year, and Turkey, where he currently stars for Galatasaray.
Entitled “From Tito to Drogba,” the album traces the 35-year-old’s journey from modest roots in Abidjan to the summit of world football. The Tito in the title refers to his childhood nickname.
It was first published in 2012 in Ivory Coast, where Drogba is revered both as a linchpin of the national team, the Elephants, and a symbol of national unity—thanks to his detour into peacemaking diplomacy when the country was teetering on the brink of civil war in 2006.
Born on March 11, 1978, Drogba first moved to France at the age of five to live with his uncle, Michel Goba, a professional footballer, his parents calculating that it would give him a better chance in life.
He has often spoken of how difficult he found his childhood years, the long spells spent apart from his parents and the upheaval of moving around as his uncle regularly changed clubs.
His parents finally joined him in France when he was 13 and the family settled in the Paris suburbs, where Drogba began what was to be an illustrious career at Levallois SC.
‘Too perfect? He’s like that’
“The book goes into a lot of detail,” Drogba recently told sports daily L’Equipe. “It is a fun way to learn lots of things about me and to show young people that, if they do what I did, they can achieve their objectives.”
“The most important thing is to show you can exceed your dreams. For me football has become my job, my way of making a living, and that in turn has allowed me to meet many famous people, to be a UNICEF ambassador.”
The man responsible for the album is Gabin Bao, a 36-year-old Ivorian who has spent years on the project, finally convincing the player’s advisors it was a good idea.
“I met him several times after we did the deal and he really liked the idea of sending a message to young Africans,” Bao told Agence France-Presse.
Bao’s script for the book flirts with caricature at times in its emphasis on the role of hard work in Drogba’s ascent.
“Some people say I’ve made him too perfect. But he is like that,” Bao said. “He is very careful about his image because he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.”
Part of the proceeds from the book sales will go to the Didier Drogba Foundation, which finances health and education projects in Africa.