World shakers

Didier Drogba, Pato and others to focus on in South Africa this summer

Updated: December 4, 2009, 8:29 AM ET
By Jeff Bradley, Luke Cyphers and Doug McIntyre | ESPN The Magazine
Getty ImagesDidier Drogba looks to bring home a World Cup to an African nation this summer.

This story appears in the December 14, 2009 issue of ESPN The Magazine. To keep up with U.S. soccer at all points, check out the corresponding Insider blog.

The Ambassador

The prophet Pelé once declared that an African team would win the World Cup before the year 2000. While the Great One's prediction did not come to pass, he had the right idea: African football is now a true world power. The one player who most embodies the continent's meteoric rise is Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba, the best player on the African team most likely to make a deep run in 2010. A lightning rod for English Premier League power Chelsea, the 6'2" striker is known as much for his spectacular goals as for his no-holds-barred reactions when things don't go his way. In short, Drogba demands attention, and he has eagerly seized the role of the face of the world's biggest sporting event. "It's a chance for the African continent to show another side of itself from the one people usually see, by which I mean war or poverty," Drogba says. "It's a chance to prove we're capable of bringing joy and happiness to the whole world." If you don't know Drogba already, here's another prediction: You will soon enough.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.