Soccer unites a country: The Ivory Coast
As with many other African nations that have struggled with internecine conflicts that have riven their countries apart, the Ivory Coast (Cote D'Ivoire) is no exception. There is a civil war going on between the government run south and the opposition led north since 2002. The Muslim majority in the north is being ostracized from participating in Ivory Coast politics. Thousands have been killed, maimed, and tortured in this conflict.
Before this happened the Ivory Coast was a model of stability and progress in Western Africa. Since the civl war, the Ivorians have slipped to 163rd out of 177 countries in HDI ranking with a PPP of 1476 USD. Read more about its dire straits.
The one bright spot is their soccer team that qualified for the World Cup for the first time. And with it brought a country together. Their team contains players from all regions and of different faiths and has long been upheld as an example of how the Ivorians can put aside their differences. Their march to the WC was nothing short of miraculous. In a tough group that included Egypt, Sudan, Cameroon, and Libya, their chances were very slim. To make matters worse, their assistant coach Mama Ouattara, a Muslim passed away before their first encounter with Egypt. Uniting together, the team vowed to play every game in his memory and qualify.
And that they did. Thanks to a last-day win over Sudan and Cameroon's draw with Egypt. Their captain and ace, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba dropped to his knee, leading his team mates, in a plea for peace "Ivorians, we ask for your forgiveness," they said. "Let us come together and put this war behind us."
In country torn with strife with little to cheer about, the Ivory Coast team brought people together for this momentous occasion. As for the success of their World Cup campaign much of it rests on their stars that play in foreign leagues like sharpshooters Didier Drogba and Aruna Dindane, a stout defense led by Kolo Toure and Cyrille Domoraud and a stalwart in goal, Jean Jacques Tizie. Their coach is Henri Michel who has led France, Tunisia, and Cameroon to the World Cup finals in the past. Get ready for some entertaining football from the Ivorians and remember their country each time they play.