Didier Drogba, the Chelsea FC and Ivory Coast striker, has been honoured with Beyond Sport's Humanitarian in Sport Award – supported by Virgin Atlantic, following in the footsteps of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Congolese ex-NBA star Dikembe Mutombo and taking receipt of the Award in the week before the Beyond Sport Summit is staged in Africa for the first time.
The Humanitarian in Sport Award – supported by Virgin Atlantic, is a recognition of Drogba's work with The Didier Drogba Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as his unique place in Ivorian society. The Chelsea star has played a pivotal role in the quest for peace in his home country – not just as a talisman of Ivorian success and cooperation on the sporting field, but by actively participating in the search for reconciliation within the country.
Nick Keller, the Founder of Beyond Sport, said: "Didier has taken an active role in the search for peace in his home country not through obligation, but through choice. In a day and age when we are searching more than ever for real heroes in sport, it is an honour to present Didier with this Award. Didier clearly understands his position in the world and the opportunity he has to go beyond sport.”
Didier Drogba said: "I'm really happy to receive this Award. It means a lot, because we have been trying to help people in my country. Everybody knows the war in Ivory Coast has been devastating, and I'm really proud because I've been fighting for peace in Africa, and especially in Ivory Coast, where the conflict has been in place for more than ten years.
“If I was a politician my words would touch a part of the people. Because I am a sportsman and I am neutral, my message can touch more people. Sports, and football, is really fantastic because you can use your voice to send messages and go beyond sport."
Drogba added: “To have an event like Beyond Sport happening in South Africa – and in Africa for the first time – is a good step, because a lot of conflicts are happening in Africa. It's important to host these kind of events and spread the message in the continent.”
Drogba has been an influential figure in the Ivorian peace process for more than five years. His appeal to combatants to lay down their arms, made in the aftermath of the country's qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, inspired a ceasefire after half a decade of civil war. His actions at the time, and in the years that followed, led to him being named in 2010 as one of the TIME 100, TIME magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
This year, after violence which erupted in the aftermath of elections in Ivory Coast left more than 3,000 people dead over four months of fighting, Drogba agreed to join an 11-man Truth, Reconciliation and Dialogue Commission, inspired by the body that helped South Africa move forward after the end of apartheid, in an effort to secure a lasting peace in Ivory Coast.
The Didier Drogba Foundation, meanwhile, was created in 2007 to provide financial and material support in both health and education to the African people. It has provided help and funding for such structures as the Red Cross throughout Africa and the Page Blanche Institution. Through Drogba’s contribution of 100% of the money he receives from his sponsors and the creation of an annual charity ball, The Didier Drogba Foundation is currently funding the building of a much-needed hospital in Abidjan.
In 2008 he was named a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, working to spur action at all levels of society in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals.
The other winners of the Beyond Sport Awards will be revealed on Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th December, during the Beyond Sport Summit in Cape Town. 35 projects have been shortlisted, covering 18 countries and 22 different sports. They were chosen from close to 400 entries from more than 125 countries that submitted applications to this year’s Awards. The Beyond Sport Award winners will receive a substantial package of business support to help them grow and become sustainable in the future.
Beyond Sport is a global initiative that seeks to celebrate and support any organisation or individual with the goal to drive positive social change through sport. Its global partners are Barclays Spaces for Sports, TIME Inc and UNICEF.
For the full programme of the Beyond Sport Summit and Awards 2011, or for more information on Beyond Sport, visit www.beyondsport.org.