Didier Drogba’s mother is preparing traditional west African food for a group of 60 traveling Ivory Coast fans at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Clotilde Drogba works in a makeshift kitchen at a dusty stadium on the outskirts of Malabo preparing Ivorian dishes such as chicken and fish with rice, plantains, potatoes and spicy sauces.
“Everyone has their thing and what they like to do,” Clotilde Drogba said after preparing lunch on Monday. “This is what I like to do — be helpful to people. I would support my son doing anything, whether he was famous or not. This isn’t about my son, it’s about supporting my country.”
Clotilde Drogba also prepared food for supporters at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Favorites Ivory Coast, who have already qualified for the quarter-finals, played Angola in their final Group B match on Monday. While Didier Drogba and the rest of the Ivory Coast squad prepared for the match in a luxury hotel outside town, Clotilde sat on a bench in the dirt-floor kitchen chopping raw chicken with a cleaver as flies buzzed round the fresh meat.
Metal pots and pans containing bananas, onions, peanuts and tomatoes were scattered around, while portable gas hobs were used for cooking the food.
At first, Clotilde Drogba was shy about being interviewed, insisting she needed time to wash her hands and clean up.
“The mother of Drogba cannot be seen like this,” she protested.
A coach-load of supporters wearing the orange of Ivory Coast turned up soon after and took their places at plastic picnic tables. A gazebo provided shade from the fierce sun.
“The best moment is when you make a good meal and people are satisfied, but it’s even better when Didier scores and the team wins,” Clotilde Drogba said, sitting down for a rest after helping the handful of female kitchen workers serve the food.
Clotilde Drogba said she caught Ivory Coast’s opening two victories on a screen at the modest stadium where she is working, but added that she hoped to watch the semi-final in the stadium in Bata if her son and his teammates make it that far.
Unfortunately, Didier Drogba himself will miss out on the home cooking.
“The best food is what mom makes, but Didier has to eat at the hotel, which is normal. He has to eat with the team — these are the rules and I respect that,” she said.
Before her son became a star player in France, Clotilde Drogba said she was complimented on her son’s powerful physique.
“In France, they say you have to give children lots of soup so they will grow up strong,” she said. “Didier was so big they always said I must have given him lots of soup. Didier’s favorite was always sweet puree of plantain.”
It was also no surprise to mom that her son turned into a world-class player.
“I was a fan of Franz Beckenbauer when I was pregnant with Didier and I wanted him to be a big footballer like that — and God made it happen,” she said.
Even without mom’s cooking, Clotilde Drogba is confident she will see her son finally lift the Africa Cup of Nations.
“The team plays very well and it’s my wish that they win the cup,” she said.
Ivory Coast fan Euloge Ngbesso was enjoying a bowl of rice and chicken as Clotilde Drogba helped clean up the dishes, before posing for a seemingly interminable round of photographs with supporters.
“She’s a good woman,” Ngbesso said. “She’s like a mother to the supporters here. She’s very open and people respect her for who she is, not just because she’s Didier Drogba’s mom.”