It’s All About Drogba
How do you knock a 6-foot-3 / 85kg African over with a strong gust of wind? You hand a whistle to someone standing in his vicinity.
For fans of the world game who were raised on a strict diet of full contact sports, there are certain footballers whose on field antics can be particularly unpalatable. These players usually trade on a currency of highly skilled football or flashes of splendor as opposed to an endearingly high work ethic and dogged determination.
Chelsea forward, Didier Drogba, is one such player who can be characterized as equal parts brilliance & frustration.
In the recent game against Barcelona, the full spectrum of ‘the Drog’ was on display for all to see. The big Ivorian spent the vast majority of the first half either in an offside position or lying on his back, clutching a random part of his body and withering like a woman in the throes of labour.
But in the two added minutes of the first half, tacked on in a large part due to Drogba’s never ending injury crises, the jeers turned to cheers as Didier cooly finished a classy Chelsea counterattack.
The move started just inside the Chelsea defensive half as Lampard robbed Messi, of all people, before playing a classy angled chip over towards a fast-moving Ramires. His first touch off the chest was perfect as it sent the ball goal bound and the young Brasilian then turned on the burners to find himself clear in space. As the flustered Barcelona defense converged on Ramires, he sent a clever ball across the goalmouth to an unmarked Drogba, whose first time left foot shot did enough to beat the scrambling Valdez. As expected, Stamford Bridge erupted into rapturous celebration of what was to be the decisive goal of the match.
According to statistics compiled by a UK newspaper, Drogba went down on 6 occassions, spending a total of 4 minutes 37 seconds lying on the ground, in the first half alone (10 occasions/6:30 mins for the match). You don’t need a calculator to realise that that is almost 10% of the entire first half! This constant stream of ‘injuries’ left Drogba’s poor, ravaged body in the kind of condition needed to score a Champion’s League semi-final goal against the world’s best side.
The whole first half was an uncannily accurate metaphor for Didier Drogba, the player. Clearly a skilled striker to be reckoned with, but also a man that has faced constant allegations throughout his career such as diving to win penalties, feigning injuries and having a propensity for high drama.
It is not a well guarded secret why players go down in football. Just a small chance of a referee awarding a penalty gives a far greater potential for a goal than shooting off balance or maintaining the ball in a non-goal scoring position. Even when outside the box, free kicks in mid field can slow the game down, improve field position or provide good opportunities for goals from set pieces.
It is engrained into the culture of the sport and will continue until there are changes to the laws of the game or more players are punished retrospectively.
But what is less clear is to why Drogba chooses to stay down, every – single – time.
So just why does such a talented footballer persist with these childish antics?
One of the potential benefits is that it wastes playing time as valuable minutes are chewed up whilst players receive treatment. However in Drogba’s case, he was partaking in his amateur theatrics long before the Chelsea goal. Therefore any time wasted, in the first half at least, would have been likely to facilitate a 0-0 result at home. This would have left Chelsea facing the highly improbable task of a draw or better at Camp Nou to progress.
Perhaps staying down gives players a breather, but it was only the first half, so one would imagine it was more disruptive than beneficial to contrive constant breaks in play.
Maybe it was Chelsea’s game plan to stop Barcelona finding their fast passing rhythm, but if that was the case it appeared that Drogba alone was burdened with the task of manufacturing unscheduled stops.
What appears to be the most likely scenario, is that Didier Drogba wants it all to be about Didier Drogba. He wants the world to know he was fouled and in great pain, however he’ll be willing to play through it after a mere few minutes lying on the deck.
But most importantly, he want the world to know that he is genuinely hurt and did not go down ‘light’ just to win a free kick.
A key aspect of this approach that Drogba fails to recognise, is that with every passing pseudo-injury he loses a little more credibility. After almost a decade in the Premier League, the credibility barrel is scraped dry & splintering.
This kind of terrible acting that brings the game to a halt ruins players reputations and is the sole reason that football will never be the number one sport in Australia; a country were sport is synonymous with testosterone-hardened blokes who don’t stay down unless they’re hospital bound. Maybe a few games of rugby would be just the tonic Didier needs to stop his ridiculous approach to physicality in football, or failing that, someone better order him a huge can of Man-Up.