Didier Drogba – one of the greatest players ever to come out of Africa – received the 2020 UEFA President’s Award from UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin at the UEFA Champions League draw ceremony in Geneva on Thursday (1 October).
The 42-year-old former Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker, described by 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. In fact, Drogba is the first non-European to win the award.
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.”
“Didier is a hero to millions of football fans for his achievements throughout his glittering playing career. He is a leader – a pioneer. I will remember him as a player for his skill, strength and intelligence, but above all for his insatiable appetite to succeed – a trait which is just as present in his desire to help others off the field of play,” said Čeferin.
“The UEFA Champions League has become the greatest club competition in the world, partly due to our clubs being able to attract the best players from around the world. We have been lucky to have seen the likes of George Weah, Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba play at the very highest level. They in turn, have blazed a trail for African footballers and have given inspiration to a whole new generation who look to follow in their footsteps.”
Drogba won the 2012 Champions League as part of a glittering career with Chelsea, in which he scored 164 goals in 381 appearances in all competitions and lifted four Premier League titles.
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The former Ivory Coast international also scored his country’s first goal at a World Cup finals in 2006 and played at a further two tournaments.
Drogba, who retired in 2018 after a final season with Phoenix Rising, has been running a charitable foundation that has helped to build schools for disadvantaged children.
He has also been studying for UEFA’s Executive Master for International Players (MIP) programme.
“To have won a Champions League, to have played and scored for my country at a World Cup – these are things I could only have dreamed of when I was a child,” Drogba said.