By Robson Sharuko
BENJANI MWARUWARI is hoping to pull off an audacious coup by luring Chelsea’s Uefa Champions League winning hero, Didier Drogba, to play in his testimonial at the National Sports Stadium on Saturday.
The odds on securing Drogba’s participation are long but Benjani wants the Chelsea talisman to use the testimonial to celebrate with his African fans following his match-winning show in Munich on Saturday night.
Drogba has been celebrating with his Chelsea teammates and fans in London and paraded the Champions League trophy on an open top bus in the British capital on Sunday as tens of thousands of delirious supporters made their bow.
Benjani believes his testimonial provides Drogba with the perfect opportunity to celebrate his heroic Munich show, in which he scored a late priceless equaliser and stroked home the winning penalty in the shootout, with his African brothers and sisters.
“We are desperately trying to get Drogba to play in the testimonial on Saturday and, if that happens, it will be a huge boost for the match in terms of its appeal,” said Benjani.
“He was part of our plans from the word go but the Champions League final was always a challenge, nothing has been confirmed yet but you can only do it if you try and that is what we are doing and we getting a lot of help from our contacts in England.
“It’s obviously not easy to get Didier right now because there are lot of things happening to him and a lot of programmes will be on his diary after the Uefa
“They are also set to go into camp early for the World Cup qualifiers and that presents another challenge but, who knows, things can happen quickly and Drogba might just want to come and share a moment with his Zimbabwean fans this coming weekend.
“If that happens, it will give the testimonial match an appeal that extends beyond the borders of Zimbabwe since you will have people in South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and other countries in Southern Africa, just wanting to come and see Drogba.”
Drogba is the Cote d’Ivoire skipper and the Elephants are scheduled to play a friendly international against Mali in France on Sunday, a day after the Benjani testimonial.
But, given that he played 120 minutes on Saturday in a Uefa Cup final that tested his physical and mental strength to the edge, Drogba is likely to be excused from the friendly international against the Malians, which gives the team organising the Benjani testimonial a window of hope.
Playing in a testimonial, which is virtually an exhibition match, is different from playing in a competitive friendly international against a full-strength and competitive team like Mali. The Ivorians will host Tanzania, in their first match of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers on June 2 and then date Morocco, in Marrakech, a week later.
Drogba’s management team is also set to open talks with the Chelsea management to trash out a new deal for the Munich hero whose contract with the Blues expires this coming European club football off-season.
Chelsea are set to leave on a tour of the United States in July and the European champions want all the key issues related to players, including Drogba, and a substantive coach sorted out before they fly to America.
It’s very likely that Drogba’s heroics in Munich earned him a new lease of life at Chelsea, as he was set to leave after the final to join his old teammate Nicolas Anelka at Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua on a £20 million deal worth a net £250 000 a week.
Reports in the English media had also linked Drogba with a summer move to Barcelona. While Drogba’s future at Chelsea is set to be discussed, starting this week, it doesn’t necessarily require the marksman to be available in London for the talks as that business side can be taken care of by his management team.
The team organising the Benjani Mwaruwari testimonial believes that opens a window for the Ivorian captain to fly to Harare this week and they feel a two-day African sunny break is just what Drogba needs after all that he went through in Munich on Saturday night.
Drogba has also revealed that he was haunted by the bitter memory of his costly penalty miss, in the Nations Cup final against Zambia in February, and now that he has converted one on the big stage, he could be tempted to return to Africa for a celebratory show.
The 34-year-old forward said his miss in Gabon had played in his mind before taking the penalty for Chelsea in the shootout. “I was confident before going to take it but I still had in my head what happened in the African Nations Cup when I could have won the final for my team,” Drogba told reporters.
“So it was very difficult.”
Drogba also spoke about his future, saying this wasn’t the right time to discuss it giving all the raw emotions that were exploding, and opening another window for the Benjani testimonial management team who want him here this week. “I don’t think we can take decisions in emotional moments like this,” he said.
“The most important thing is not my future, the most important thing is what we achieved, the way the players were fighting to win this cup. I want to dedicate this cup to all the managers we’ve had before, all the players I’ve played with before.” Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, told the Daily Mail of England that they were set to open talks with Drogba’s agent this week.
“Didier is a big match player and he did it once again,” said Buck. “He’s a good guy, a great player. Ron (Gourlay, Chelsea chief executive) is going to sit down with his agent this week and we’ll see how it goes. We have to do what’s best for Chelsea Football Club and Didier has to do what’s best for him. We love Didier.
“He’s a great player, but we have to think about what’s right for Didier and what’s right for Chelsea.” Former Chelsea striker Gianfranco Zola told the BBC Radio Five Live that Drogba deserved another stint at the Blues. “It shows how cool Drogba is. In all their very important matches he has put a stamp on it,” Zola said.
“Drogba has been fantastic for Chelsea, not only for the goals that he scores but also for unbelievable defending. He has quite an extraordinary example of leadership on the pitch.
“If you are playing alongside someone like him you feel even more excited. I do (want him to stay) because he is one of the guys who has made the fortune for Chelsea. Whatever he does he has become a legend for us.”
The Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association leader, Eddie “Mboma” Nyatanga, yesterday rallied fans to come in their thousands to honour Benjani in his testimonial.
“Our message to our constituency, the fans, is that let’s come in our thousands and fill the giant stadium to capacity to honour a man who did a lot for our country and rose to become the national team captain,” said Nyatanga.
“All these years that he has played in Europe, Benjani has been a shining ambassador for our country, raising our national flag high every time he scored or did well in the major leagues.
“He has inspired thousands, if not millions, of young Zimbabwean boys who see him as a model, an example that you can rise from Magwegwe, Rimuka, Mbare and Sakubva to become a wealthy man using your talent as a footballer.
“Let’s come together to say ‘well done Benjie’ and show his fellow international stars that we are fully behind our star.”
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