It was just after the first hour when Didier Drogba moved in front of the goal and deflected a Bayern shot. That he was up front in the scrum told me he was taking over the match, that his aging body was up to playing the entire field for one more hour.
He was there at the end, too, with the goal that tied the match, and the penalty kick that won the Champions League final for Chelsea, just as he was there in the late minutes against Barcelona earlier in the month.
In the pandemonium afterward, one broadcaster, I think it was Gary Neville, was babbling about English courage and English pride and English moxie, but if I am not mistaken Drogba is a citizen of Ivory Coast and Peter Cech is Czech, and Roberto Di Matteo is (as I was reminded this week) Swiss-born although he played 34 times for Italy. And for that matter, owner Roman Abramovich is a Russian oligarch of Latvian and Jewish ancestry. That is the way it works in the most international of sports.
Drogba was always going to be there in the desperate moments of the match -- and for the fifth penalty kick. He carried this team after the captain, John Terry, disgraced himself with a sneak kick to a Barcelona player in the semifinals, and was banished for the finals. Terry should not have been allowed to receive a medal in the ceremony afterward.
Watching Drogba pull his teammates along was like watching Michael Jordan or Derek Jeter or Mark Messier play offense and defense in the biggest of games.
Bayern was at home, and had more flash, more offense, but Drogba held Chelsea together.
It sounds as if he is gone from Chelsea, at 34. Can you imagine his power and his will up front for all those nifty passers at Barca? And Abramovich apparently has some master plan that does not include Di Matteo to run the club next season. It’s nice to be the oligarch.
Because Drogba helped will Chelsea to be the first London squad to win the European Cup in the 57 seasons of its existence, Di Matteo should privately hand Drogba one token of his final months – a yellow captain’s arm band, just to take with him in his luggage. The player from Ivory Coast made Chelsea the toast of England.
5/19/2012 12:10:34 pm
I actually watched this myself from the 23d minute when I tuned in -- reluctantly at first, but I got into it after the half hour it took for me to figure out which team was which and where they were playing, and who was singing that interesting drum chant at that time. OK, I must concede it was one of the best sporting events I've seen in a long, long time. GV's post is chock full of fascinating details that help me understand this better (even on real quick read before we go out for the evening) and I want to reread for full enjoyment. The excitement of the event was even better than the Preakness -- and that says a ton in my too narrow view of the sporting world!
5/19/2012 03:56:14 pm
Just finished the DVR. Drogba's redemption has been just about Beckham-like, from beneath contempt when banned a few years ago to more recent heroics. To my chagrin, not the least because of the effect on Spurs, I must doff my cap to him.
5/20/2012 12:58:47 pm
George—your skillful reporting of soccer goes well beyond actual game statistics in that so much of the human aspect is included. It is easy to see why Brian is inching toward becoming a soccer fan.
5/20/2012 03:08:34 am
5/20/2012 03:15:15 am
Guys, thanks. Hansen, the common wisdom in publishing is that soccer books do not sell.
5/20/2012 03:20:22 am
George--Tom Friedman's OP-ED in today's NY Times indicates how easy it has become to self-publish and that 16 of the top 100 best sellers on Kindle are self-published.
5/20/2012 09:29:08 am
I did read Friedman's column with interest. An author-friend of mine (we all know the name) is doing his next book "like Dickens" -- 6-8 chapters in sequence, electronically, as he writes them. It's a thought. GV
9/23/2022 12:34:14 pm
Great rreading this
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.