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.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.