On Monday of last week, Africans were protesting on the streets of Guangzhou after one of their own was killed after being taken into police custody. A day later, Didier Drogba, international footballing superstar and a hero across Africa, announced that he’d be joining Shanghai Shenhua in July. At the end of his statement, in what many may have viewed as a throw away sentence, Drogba declared that he wanted to “help improve the links that China and Africa share”. Knowing the growingly connected, but often tense relationship that exists between Africa and China, there is a lot to this statement. Drogba the footballing megastar, the peace maker, the humanitarian appears to be setting a major off-field task for himself, but if he’s even partially successful, he could truly add to his legacy.
Drogba’s impact on the pitch is sure to be massive, but its what he might be able to do off it that’s the most intriguing. While Nicolas Anelka made headlines for joining the CSL, he is not a superstar on the same level as Drogba, nor is he involved in as many off-field activities as Drogba. While Anelka is known as “Le Sulk”, Drogba’s known for his charisma (and his diving). He has been credited with playing a crucial role in ending the civil war and bringing peace to his country, he is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program, and his foundation is active in building hospitals and schools in Africa.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015