Voice of Sport

Didier Drogba buys American soccer club as Michael Essien’s wife snaps up Italian team

Will this be precursor to the wealthy Africans abroad investing in African leagues; men with money muscle like Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon and Yaya Toure another Ivorian. But would African FAs start treating league football as businesses rather than platforms for empty power and politics?

For a rainy day: Africa soccer legend says buying and playing for American Major League Soccer team Phoenix Rising, ‘the right offer for me; to think about playing, because I enjoy it, but also to get to the next stage of my career’

COTE d’Ivoire football legend Didier Drogba has joined United Soccer League side Phoenix Rising as a player and co-owner.

Drogba, 39, has not played since leaving [American] Major League Soccer [MSL] club Montreal Impact in November. He will start out as a player but has also joined Phoenix’s “MLS expansion franchise ownership group”.

He said: “To own a team and be a player at the same time is unusual but it’s going to be very exciting.

“It’s a good transition because I want to carry on playing but I’m almost 40 and it’s important for me to prepare for my later career.”

Akosua Puni Essien, wife of Ghanaian icon Michael Essien bought beleaguered Italian third division club at an auction for just Sh26 m

Akosua Puni Essien, wife of Ghanaian icon Michael Essien bought beleaguered Italian third division club at an auction for just Sh26 m

News of Africans investing in club business got off the ground with a humble investment by Akosua Puni Essien, wife of Ghanaian icon and former AC Milan, Chelsea and Real Madrid midfield star Michael Essien. Akosua bought third division Italian football club Como at an auction. Como were relegated from Serie ‘B’ last season and they sit seventh now.

A club statement says Puni Essien will return to Como soon and that she is “honoured to be part of a club which has 110 years of history.” According to reports, she bought the club at a bankruptcy auction held by FC Como Limited.

The Italian club plied their trade in the Serie ‘A’ in the 2002-03 season but this was followed by three consecutive relegations. Then things got a whole lot worse as the club was declared bankrupted late on in 2004.

Would this a precursor to the wealthy Africans earning colossal amounts abroad making investments in African leagues; men with money muscle like Samuel Eto’o of Cameroun and Yaya Toure another Ivorian. But would African FAs start treating league football as businesses instead of platform for exercising power and politics?

Samuel Eto’o called for change in management of African football and ouster of fellow Cameroonian Issa Hayatou for CAF Presidency

Samuel Eto’o called for change in management of African football and ouster of fellow Cameroonian Issa Hayatou for CAF Presidency

Et0’0 is one of many African idols that have called for a change in the way African football business is done and he recently successfully backed the ouster of his countryman, Issa Hayatou from headship of CAF [African Football Confederation] after a 29 year stint. 

Meanwhile Drogba’s buy Phoenix have just started their fourth season in the Western Conference of USL, which forms part of the second tier of the American league system. The Arizona club hope to become one of four planned expansion teams in MLS over the next three years.

“I had offers from China, from England – in both the Premier League and even the Championship – but they were only as a player,” Drogba told The Premier League Show.

“This was the right offer because it was important for me to think about playing, because I enjoy it, but also to get to the next stage of my career.”

Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances during his first spell at Chelsea from 2004 to 2012, winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League.

Following moves to Shanghai Shenhua in China and Turkish side Galatasaray, Drogba returned to the Blues for the 2014-15 season, scoring seven goals in 40 appearances, helping Jose Mourinho’s side to the title, before 18 months with Montreal.

He joins former Chelsea team-mate Shaun Wright-Phillips at Phoenix, who have one win and two defeats from three games this season.

“I’m still a player but it’s important to respect the decision of the manager,” added Drogba, who is Cote d’Ivoire’s record goalscorer.

“When we’re on the pitch, he’s going to be the one who decides and when we go to board meetings, it’s a different thing.”

-Additional reporting by BBC Sport and Agencies