Didier Drogba, a FIFA legend and the Goodwill Ambassador for Sport and Health for the World Health Organization, has commented about the rise of women’s football, the need to provide more possibilities for players in Africa, and the ability of football to teach people from diverse backgrounds how to live together.
The former Côte d’Ivoire and Chelsea forward made an appearance at the Making Trade Score for Women! event at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, alongside HRH Princess Reem Bint Abdullah Bin Mosaad Al Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Football isn’t just about winning or losing; it’s also about being a decent person and learning how to get along with people from different cultures, according to Drogba. “For instance, at Chelsea, I played with players who were from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Ivory Coast, and Ghana, and we had to learn how to get along, respect one another’s cultures, and compete for the same badge. When you play football, you develop and learn these values. Everyone’s children should have this.
He then discussed the necessity to establish the ideal environment for players to grow as he turned his attention to football in Africa. “I believe that opportunities must be created in Africa and throughout the continent, giving children chances and establishing youth leagues. There are specific phases of practice that you must learn if you want to become a superstar, and we lack those.
He commended FIFA President Gianni Infantino for changing people’s opinions of African football and claimed that the African Super League will be a fantastic opportunity for the continent to develop infrastructure. “Since his election, he has significantly altered how Africans view football…We can now observe the economics and the growth of corporate investments in football.
Didier Drogba commended the caliber of women’s football, less than three months before the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023.
“I played with great players, in great teams, but I could see some of these women players being in our squad, performing and competing with the boys,” the player added. “You know, I watch the game and I observe how they handle the ball. Football players are so concentrated on their initial touch that it makes for a better, more attractive game to watch. I know this because I’ve missed several of my own first touches.
The women’s national team began playing matches in 2022, and Saudi Arabia recently established its first women’s football league. Princess Reem spoke about the sport’s explosive rise in the country.
This is an exciting time, Princess Reem said. “The government has made a tremendous effort to support us, whether it’s organizing leagues, creating a national team, or having multiple programmes for Saudi men and women to grow the sport.” We have reached a critical point in our progress. I am aware that what the men’s team accomplished required a lot of time, effort, patience, and experience, but I am confident that we will be able to uphold the honor of our nation.
The Saudi Arabian women’s national team competed in its first-ever international games in 2022, and they also established a team for females under the age of 17. Over 1,000 licensed coaches currently work in the kingdom, up from 119 in 2021. Nearly 50,000 girls compete in the schools’ league, and there are now regional training facilities for young women between the ages of six and seventeen. In a short period of time, Saudi Arabia has seen a 66% increase in referees and a 56% increase in clubs, which can be attributed to the start of a first- and second-tier women’s league with a total of 25 teams.