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    Apr 2009

    Default Didier Drogba Deserves Respect for Conquering his Angola Fears

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    As is often the case when tragedy strikes, the true character of a person comes to the surface.

    And that is what has happened with the Ivory Coast and Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.

    Drogba is widely disliked, and indeed hated, by many opposition fans in the Premier League for his gamesmanship, his preening and arrogance and his ever -present willingness to roll around on the floor pretending he is injured when there is little wrong with him.

    He polarises opinion like nobody else in the English game. He is either loved or hated.

    But even his greatest critics should admire the way Drogba has coped with the aftermath of the rebels' attack on the Togo team bus in Angola..

    Following attack, Drogba was apparently "mentally unfit" to stay in Angola and captain the Elephants in their attempt to win the African Nations Cup.

    Togo's Alaixys Romao revealed: "There was a long discussion between Drogba and [Togo's Emmanuel] Adebayor and Drogba said he was fully aware of the psychological state that the Togo squad was in, He too was not ready to play in this African Nations Cup."

    However, Drogba has since proved that underneath the play-acting prima donna lies a man who is willing to stand up, lead his nation and be both physically and morally brave in the face of the potential dangers of remaining in Africa to complete the tournament.

    The Ivory Coast skipper feels those still involved in the African Cup of Nations must repair the competition's reputation and prove to those responsible for Friday's atrocity that sport will not be stopped by terrorists.

    Drogba said: "We are ready, but the events of Friday have left us shattered. I have spoken with Adebayor and it was a difficult situation for them.

    "We have to show solidarity with them, though, and support the decision they have taken. We are all sad to see them leave the biggest competition for African players, but that is life."

    The events of Friday have provided compelling evidence, if it were needed, that football is not more important than life or death as Liverpool's legendary manager Bill Shankly is reputed to have said.

    But the sport does need to stand up and be counted at the moment; It does need to remain united in the face of terror.

    And, by refusing to leave the competition and staying with his team, Drogba cannot fail to win the admiration and respect of even his most ardent critics.

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