Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba said on Monday that he believes that football is the only unifying force in his war-torn country.
“The national team means a lot to this country. I think that today – and I choose my words carefully here – it is Cote d’Ivoire’s only unifying force,” Drogba said in an interview with FIFA.com.
“All our ethnic groups are now represented in the team – Baoules, Betes, and so on. They are all there.
“So there’s a complete cross-section in the Cote d’Ivoire team and I think that it’s the only good example there is today.”
The 34-year-old continued: “Of course, there are other sports in Cote d’Ivoire, but football is currently the most popular one, and it’s the sport that brings the whole country together in my view, whereas in everyday life that isn’t necessarily the case.”
Drogba, who joined Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua from English giants Chelsea this season, believes things have evolved in his country where he once played an international match in a stadium where there were rocket launchers and weapons.
“It surprised us and was because of the situation at the time, when the country was in a state of crisis,” he explained.
“It’s part of our history, the history of Cote d’Ivoire, but things have changed since then, lots of things have happened. We’re trying to move forward, we’re trying to get back on our feet, to show people through football that we can live together.”
And the Ivory Coast captain, who is the all-time top scorer in the national team, admitted that it would be a dream to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
“It would be massive to qualify for the World Cup, for a small country like Cote d’Ivoire, a country that had never taken part (before 2006),” he said.
“And if it happened, we would certainly be aiming higher than finishing third in our group.”
Drogba’s side will play a 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Senegal on October 13.