Born in Abidjan on 11 March 1978, Didier Drogba spent his childhood in his native Ivory Coast and his adopted country, France. ‘Tito’, as he was known to friends and family, first left the country of his birth at the age of five. He headed for Brest in Brittany, where his uncle, Michel Goba, was a professional footballer. Didier’s parents, who were bank workers in Abidjan, hated to see him go, but Michel convinced them that the move would give their son “a real chance to succeed in life”. For three seasons, therefore, Didier travelled with his uncle from one club to another. As well as ensuring that Didier kept up with his schoolwork, Michel Goba also used to bring him back shirts by the dozen after matches. After three years spent far from home, in Brest, Angoulême and then Dunkerque, Didier returned home at the age of eight.
A beginning at right-back...
He returned to his parents whom he had not seen for three long years. His homecoming also gave him a chance to see old friends in his Yopougon Sicogi district of the city. Together they would organise football matches as often as possible, turning a car park into a makeshift pitch. Three years passed and then, in 1989, the country was hit by a serious economic crisis. His parents fell victim to the economic conditions, losing their jobs, and decided for the good of their son to send him back to France to continue his education under his uncle’s wing. In the meantime, his uncle, after a spell at Besançon, had returned to Dunkerque, taking Didier back to northern France once again. It was here that he was to join his first football club. Initially he played right back, a position that annoyed his uncle. “What are you doing stuck back there? Get up front! In football, people only look at the strikers,” said Michel Goba. The young Didier took heed, and started playing centre-forward.
Banned from football for having to repeat a year of school
Abbeville, then Tourcoing, always moving on as his uncle’s clubs changed. In 1991, aged 13, ‘Tito’ returned to Brittany, moving to Vannes. This was also the year in which his parents chose to move to France. But Didier, by now a young adolescent, lost his way somewhat and from being at the top of the class found himself having to repeat a year of school. His parents reacted immediately, banning him from football for a year and sending him to live with his cousin Kriza in Poitiers. When he returned to live with his parents, in 1993, his new home was in Antony, in the Hauts-de-Seine region near Paris, where he moved in with his six brothers and sisters. Didier was now aged 15. He signed up with Levallois, and it was here, in the suburbs of Paris, that the young Didier Drogba slowly began to make a name for himself...