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Ivory Coast's Game for Peace



Those who've been paying attention will note that we are fans of the Ivory Coast national team. They warmed our hearts with their efforts to heal their troubled nation earlier this year when they won the African Cup of Nations.

We at The Kick Project, have also long been fans of the Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba, star of Chelsea, Marseille, and Galatasaray among others. Arguably the best ever African footballer (argue away!), Drogba has always had a seemingly enduring belief in the power of football to generate peace.

With war in his homeland exploding across the country in 2002, the formerly stable nation was split in 2, largely along ethnic lines. This left one area dominated by government forces and another by rebel forces.

Many suffered and those in rebel held areas, especially so as they were isolated from the country and more or less under siege.

In 2007, as the war flared again, Drogba and his team mates organised for an international game to be played in the rebel strong-hold of Bouake, in the centre of the country.

It was a master stroke and as the Ivorians crushed Madagascar in front of packed house full of government and rebel members - with a thrilling fifth and final goal scored by Drogba - it was evident that the event had brought Ivorians together as they hadn't been for a long time.

As one Ivorian player who played that day, Gilles Yapi Yapo (who now plays with Zurich) said about the match, "When you are on the field, you don't think about war or peace."

It's a simple truth and one we place a lot of faith in here at The Kick Project.

We caught this nice, short BBC radio documentary remembering Drogba and his team mates and that memorable game as the Ivory Coast was being pulled apart by violence.

While their actions didn't stop the war, they offered a vision, a memory of what a peaceful country looked like. It's likely such a vision animated peace talks and the eventual peace that came and went and which still remains delicately balanced.


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