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EXCLUSIVE: Drogba unleashed - the shocking, other side of the striker

12 Nov 2009 14:26:07

EXCLUSIVE: Drogba unleashed - the shocking, other side of the striker

On the United Nations website there is a black and white portrait of Didier Drogba. It was taken by Rankin, the British photographer, as part of the organisation's campaign to try to halve world poverty by 2015. If the phrases 'Didier Drogba' and 'United Nations' in the same sentence come as a shock, the picture itself is even more startling. Lethal: Didier Drogba scores against Bolton The Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker wears an expensive-looking jumper over a white shirt. His arms are folded, resting on a white football. He looks confidently into the camera, head slightly tilted, hair gelled back, the epitome of calm, control and relaxation.         HAVE YOUR SAY...     Have we got Didier Drogba all wrong? Sportsmail has revealed that Didier Drogba has donated £3million to a hospital in his native Ivory Coast. The Chelsea star is often depicted as a snarling striker who enjoys the odd dive but do you think he deserves more credit for his role on and off the pitch? Or is it difficult to warm to the giant forward? TELL US WHAT YOU THINK Can this really be the same player who ran amok after Chelsea's Champions League semi-final loss to Barcelona last year? The player who ranted and swore into a television camera, his eyes wide and wild, so emotionally unhinged and upset at the performance of Tom Henning Ovrebo, the Norwegian referee, who refused to award Chelsea a penalty? It seems almost impossible. Jamie Redknapp described him as a 'beast' in these pages for his powerful style, leading the line with aggression and strength. He can be unplayable for opposition defenders and unpalatable for supporters of the beautiful game, who prefer their heroes to stay on their feet. As a heavyweight striker, he can go to ground too quickly, ukalthough he has improved this season. Even so, when Jonny Evans thrust a high kung-fu kick into his chest last weekend, with Drogba clutching his chest and writhing on the ground, the cry was still: 'Get up!' There isn't too much sympathy from neutral supporters for this player. Yet there is more to Drogba than the powerfully set, prodigiously talented striker with a reputation for falling over too easily. There must be. Why else would Pepsi invest an estimated £3million in adding him to their impressive stable of global stars? Fury: Drogba throws his self to the ground after failing to win a penalty against Barcelona Michael Jackson starred in a 1984 commercial, singing 'You're the Pepsi generation' to the tune of Billie Jean. Tina Turner and David Bowie teamed up with Modern Love in 1987. Ray Charles, Cindy Crawford, basketball player Shaquille O'Neal and the Spice Girls saw the brand through the 1990s and then Pepsi found football. David Beckham was signed up in 1998 and earned a reported £2m a year to feature in commercials with Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce Knowles. He also starred in the £3m gladiator- themed advert of 2004, captaining a team including Roberto Carlos, Fernando Torres, Fran-cesco Totti, Raul and Ronaldinho, who donned their Pepsi breastplates and saved the world. The Pepsi challengeDavid Beckham was the firstPremier League footballer to sign up with Pepsi. By the end of hisdecade with the company, the deal earned ecks £2m a year. Pepsi's bidto conquer the Asian market saw them link up with India batsman SachinTendulkar and now Drogba is in the can. Pepsi's decision to choose Didier Drogba could therefore be seen as a strange one, though they appear eager to break into the market in Africa, where the World Cup will be played this summer with Drogba the star turn for the continent's best team, Ivory Coast. At 33-1 to win the tournament, they are considered a decent outside bet to be Africa's first world champions, with Drogba leading their charge. Then we will see the 6ft 2in snarling, powerful street fighter, a lethal finisher and a dedicated, passionate team player, but he is just as renowned for his moments of madness. Drogba was sent off in the 2008 Champions League final after slapping Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic. Last November he was banned for three matches after Chelsea lost to Burnley on penalties in the fourth round of the Carling Cup at Stamford Bridge. Drogba made a crude gesture at Burnley fans and threw a coin back into the crowd, having scored his side's opening goal. Anger: Didier Drogba confronts referee Tom Henning Ovrebo Then there was the Champions League semi-final second leg in May, when Drogba swore into a camera and had to be dragged away by manager Guus Hiddink. Is this really the athlete Pepsi want to follow in Beckham's golden footsteps? But, as the Rankin portrait shows, there is a very different side to Didier Drogba, UN Goodwill Ambassador and charity fundraiser. Speaking about why he has committed to raise £2.5m to build a hospitalin Abidjan, the city in which he lived until he was five years old,Drogba said: 'I have seen much suffering throughout Africa, especiallywith my work with the UN. But when I visited a hospital in Abidjanearlier this year, I was shocked by the terrible conditions. Drogba's not always been an angelFebruary 2005 First Chelsea red card in defeat at Barcelona.March 2006 Admits using his hand to control the ball before scoring against Manchester City and then says: 'Sometimes I dive, sometimes I stand.'December 2006 Accused by Sir Alex Ferguson of elbowing Nemanja Vidic.May 2008 Sent off in Champions League final  for slapping Vidic.November 2008 Banned for three matches and given police caution for throwing a coin back at Burnley fans.June 2009 Four-game UEFA ban for rant at ref and shouting, 'It's a ******* disgrace,' on TV after semi-final defeat by Barca. Cut to three games on appeal. 'We hear about all the incurable diseases, but these kids are justas likely to die from diabetes because there is no insulin available. 'It was then I decided the foundation's first project should be tobuild and fund a hospital giving people basic healthcare and a chancejust to stay alive.' When talking about his work for the UN, he said: 'I believe in giving people a chance. I know from the experience of my own country how terrible war can be for individuals, families and communities. But I always know that, if people are given a chance, they can achieve many things, even after a devastating conflict. 'I'll never forget where I came from. I was given a chance to succeed in life, but I always think about those who did not get that chance. We all have to work together if we want to combat poverty.' Looking at Pepsi's decision more cynically, he also happens to play for a glamorous, successful English Premier League side, who list Gatorade, a Pepsi brand, as their 'official sports drink'. Drogba's personal representatives, the London-based Sports PR Company, have also worked extensively with Beckham and Pepsi in the past. They have the contacts, as well as the player. Then there's the bonus that the player, a married, 31-year-old father of three, is unlikely to be snapped falling out of a nightclub any time soon. Drogba, it seems, has other things on his mind. You never know, maybe he warrants us giving him another chance.  EXCLUSIVE: It's Saint Drogba! Chelsea striker in £3m pledge to build a hospitalChelsea, United and Manchester City told: Come and get Ajax striker Luis SuarezBosingwa out for three months as Blues defender prepares for knee opLEO'S LONDON: Forget breaking records, QPR must convince teenage sensation Raheem Sterling to snub Chelsea and Co  Explore more:People:David Bowie, Jennifer Lopez, Shaquille O'Neal, Britney Spears, Beyonce Knowles, FERNANDO TORRES, Alex Ferguson, Michael Jackson, David Beckham, Didier Drogba, Jamie RedknappPlaces:London, Barcelona, India, AfricaOrganisations:English Premier League


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