When one thinks of the Ivory Coast, several things come to mind including their world-famous cocoa, but one unmistakable characterization is that the land of 23 million is a football-crazy nation.
During the lead up of the Grand Chess Tour, there were a lot of promotional content including photos of Grandmaster Maurice Ashley interacting with the local school children. The photos were touching.
Maurice Ashley playing local school children under the watchful eye of FIDEC President Dr. Essoh Essis. Photo by Lennart Ootes.
Those who know Ashley will know that he knows how to have a good time and in an impromptu moments decided to “damn the dirt” and play football with some of the boys.
Having a little fun with the kids in Abidjan, Côte d’ivoire before the beginning of the Grand Chess Tour Rapid and Blitz season kicks off for the first time in Africa! #grandchesstour #football pic.twitter.com/jhc0b89ZuU
— Maurice Ashley (@MauriceAshley) May 6, 2019
So this article is supposed to be about Ivorian and former Chelsea star Didier Drogba, right? Well… after seeing these promotional photos and clips, a player from Vietnam posted the innocent question on chess.com…
Good question! Perhaps it was a joke or a serious inquiry, but nevertheless, football fans would want to know.
The retired Chelsea striker ended a stellar career when he announced his retirement last November, but what was he doing these days? Apart from living the comfortable life of a world-class athlete, how often does he get to relax in his home country?
When I told Babatunde Ogunsiku (Africa Chess Media) about the Drogba question on chess.com, we shared a laugh and headed to the ECOWAS team tournament being held at the Pullman. This is tournament of the 16-country group formally called the Economic Community of West African States. Four nations were competing… Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and the host Ivory Coast.
After taking photos of the tournament, Babatunde approached me and excitedly said, “Drogba is HERE!!” Of course, this comment can’t be taken seriously as Drogba wouldn’t be at the Pullman, would he? Babatunde pointed to a table, I turned the corner and it certainly looked like him. Could it be? It was!
We shared the news with Essis who had been upstairs handling tournament affairs. “Is he here NOW?” said Essis with a surprised tone. When we confirmed it, he immediately when down to see the national hero. Sure enough… we had found Drogba!
Essoh Essis chatting with Didier Drogba
Photo by Daaim Shabazz
Regardless of what becomes of this meeting, Drogba will now be associated with chess… to the extent of entering “chess” and “Drogba” in a search engine. At this time, what took place in the conversation is being keep under hushed tones, but of course, it would be great if he could make an appearance. Essis was in a serious discussion with who appeared to be a publicity agent.
We could only imagine the expression of Magnus Carlsen if Drogba was to make the first move! Also imagine how many Ivorian children would sign up to play chess if they even imagined Drogba had anything to do with chess!