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Ivory Coast’s first ever president passed away in 1993. The country burst into civil war as a result of being left without a leader. Clashes were occurring between the predominantly Muslim north and Christian south lead to the death of thousands as well as the displacement of millions. The civil war carried on for five years. Ivorians felt the fight would know no end, up until a soccer player changed the country’s course of history.

Didier Drogba: The Soccer Player Who Stopped a Civil War

Although criticized for his self-absorption, Didier Drogba is famous for the legacy he created for himself while playing for Chelsea. He’s also the top scorer and former captain of his country, Ivory Coast’s, soccer team. Drogba proved to be impressive on the soccer field, however, his influence on the fate of his county tops anything he’s ever done with a ball.

Didier Drogba: The Soccer Player Who Stopped a Civil War

In 2002 the Ivory Coast soccer team flew to Sudan to play a match. The winner of the team would qualify to play in the 2006 World Cup, Germany. The game took place during a devastating time. Elections for new leaders were soon to be held. Tensions among Ivorians were peaking, and the lives of its people were at stake. Despite the horrors taking place back home, Drogba and his team won the match. For the first time, the team would be playing in the World Cup. What happened in the locker room, post-win would be an even greater win for the country.

The media barged in on the Ivory Coast’s soccer team celebrating their win. Drogba found a camera and addressed the leaders of Ivory Coast, pleading for peace.

“We proved today that Ivorians can coexist and play together with an objective to qualify for the World Cup. We promised you that the celebration would unite the people. Today we beg you please, on our knees. Forgive, forgive forgive. The one country in Africa with so many riches should not descent into war like this. Please lay down all weapons. Hold elections, organize elections and all will be better.”

Didier Drogba: The Soccer Player Who Stopped a Civil War

Drogba’s courage to directly address leaders of his country lead to peace. Thanks to the country’s star soccer player, elections were held shortly after his speech, and they happened without bloodshed. The team arrived in Germany two years later in 2006, to lay their first ever World Cup match. The civil war had ended by this time. The once disputing leaders of Ivory Coast stood together as their anthem rang. Drogba defines this moment as being his most significant accomplishment of all time. “Seeing opposing leaders from the Muslim north and Christian south, singing the Ivorian national anthem together was like seeing ivory coast born again.”