Hundreds of thousands fans whispered in anxiety as they stood from their seats while millions more watched on their televisions across the globe. Didier Drogba, one of the most prevalent football stars in the past decade was stepping up for his penalty kick that would decide the 2012 Champions League final. After full-time, two extra-time periods, and six penalty kicks, it all came down to the boot of the Ivory Coast native. Drogba had put the ball through the net some 375 times throughout his career but this would prove to be the most important for him and his club.
Drogba has been with Chelsea since 2004, leading the Blues with his electrifying finishing and powerful strength, but this season was one no Chelsea player or fan will ever forget. After struggling through the first half of the season, Chelsea parted ways with their young experimental manager Andre Villas-Boas. Many say it was the veteran leaders including Drogba who ran Boas out of town, but in the end it proved to be the greatest decision in the club’s history. Roberto Di Matteo took over in March as interim manager with a very different philosophy—he let the players play and lead each other. The method work marvelously, with a happier locker room and good morale throughout the club, Chelsea went 13-3-4 in all competitions including a 2-1 victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup final.
A season of salvage was turning into a season of destiny as Chelsea approached the greatest stage of European Club football at the Champions League final against German side Bayern Munich. In the trend throughout the tournament, Chelsea went into the match as out-manned underdogs with no hope against the competition. Maybe the “us against the world” mentality worked for Chelsea, because the Blues did not back down to Bayern’s challenge throughout the match. Even after an 83rd go-ahead goal by Thomas Mueller, Chelsea responded immediately with an 88thminute headed goal from the one and only Didier Drogba. After a half-hour of extra-time the two squads headed into to a penalty shootout to decide the champion. And there is where Didier Drogba stood. A Chelsea legend, savior of Ivory Coast, an icon to the sport with nothing more to prove to the football world; and yet Didier Drogba stood firm with only himself, the keeper, the ball, and the net on the cusp of football glory. In ferocious Didier Drogba fashion the 34-year-old striker starred down the net with his peiercing eyes and quickly struck the ball to the back of the net giving Chelsea the 2012 Champions League crown.
There is no better writer, philosopher, or composer who could have created an ending to a season and career more perfect than that of Didier Drogba and Chelsea FC. Drogba already had proven himself as one of the all-time, but Drogba still seemed to hunger for one final moment of triumph for the club. It seems that moment of closure with Chelsea happened in Germany, as Didier Drogba has now been reported to be parting ways with the club just days after Chelsea’s finest hour. Whether fans are sad or glad to see him go, Didier Drogba will always be remembered for his days at Stamford Bridge dawning the Chelsea blue. And no one will ever forget how Saturday evening Didier Drogba struck that final penalty kick without fear, solidifying his name among the greatest in Chelsea football. Didier Drogba couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ending at Chelsea, as his last moment for his beloved London club may very well be his greatest.
“It was Drogba, it was the angels, it was the heavens, it was the stars, it was the gods, it was everything for Chelsea. This is not anything to do with football, this is more than football, this is spirit, never giving in, fighting til the end. That English spirit, running right away through this Champions League for Chelsea.”- Gary Neville’s broadcast comments after the Drogba PK.
***Watch the Drogba PK and reaction…