Updated: Jun 11, 2021
DUBAI: International footballing superstar Didier Drogba used to envisage himself scoring goals ahead of a match before venturing onto the pitch, delegates were told on Tuesday at the Milken Institute’s 2020 Middle East and Africa Summit, in Abu Dhabi.
Insights on self-awareness, visualization and discipline were shared by former athletes during the summit.
The annual event, which gathered more than 1,000 business executives, investors, government officials and philanthropists, also welcomed former professional football players and the longest reigning Heavyweight Boxing Champion Wladimir Klitschko, in a session titled ‘Life After Sport: What Do Elite Athletes Do Next?.’
Recalling some of his most memorable moments on the pitch, retired footballer Didier Drogba, who was Ivory Coast captain from 2006 to 2014, talked about wins and losses in his 20-year career as a footballer and the life lessons he is now passing down to aspiring players in his home country, the Ivory Coast.
Looking back at the 2012 Champions League final match between his former team Chelsea and Bayern Munich, he spoke about his winning penalty shot that secured his team the cup.
“My approach was that I want to win, I am a striker and I need to do everything to help my team win,” he said during a panel discussion at the summit.
Overall, the Ivorian striker enjoyed a glittering career scoring 164 goals in 381 games and winning four Premier Leagues and the 2012 Champions League.
Drogba said he often visualized different scenarios of scoring a goal before a match, while motivating other players to do the same and manifesting a win for his team.
Today, he is the founder of ‘The Didier Drogba Foundation,’ which provides financial and material support in both health and education to people in Africa.
“We need to invest in a lot of infrastructure in Africa to give young talent the possibility to be in a better environment to progress and reach their full potential,” he said.
Drogba also expressed his keenness to contribute to the Ivory Coast Football Federation by sharing his past experience as a professional footballer.
“In Africa, football is more than just a game, it is a way of life, and a hope for all these kids dreaming of a better future and of crossing the Mediterranean Sea.”
Meanwhile, Nicolas Anelka, former player and manager talked about the discipline needed to not only succeed as an athlete but in other areas of life.
Starting his football career at 16, the French player highlighted the importance of self and body-awareness, noting that he has continued to follow a structured lifestyle maintaining a healthy diet and exercise schedule, and getting adequate sleep.
“Listening to your body and having that awareness comes with your curiosity to learn all that you can about yourself, and you can also find the right people who can help you become better mentally and then physically,” he said.
Similarly, former boxer Wladimir Klitschko discussed the power of mental strength, pointing out that “if you control your mind, you control everything.”
Taking part in a total of 69 boxing fights throughout his career, he rejoiced in his success and failures inside the ring, stressing that “endurance” is the key to progress in life.
“I am a challenge master,” said Klitschko. “I like to fail, because you learn the most when you fail, and you learn more about yourself and about the world.”