The goal of safety - Exclusive interview of Didier Drogba in AUTO Magazine | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

The goal of safety - Exclusive interview of Didier Drogba in AUTO Magazine

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Football legend Didier Drogba is the latest international star to lend his support to the FIA’s #3500LIVES road safety campaign. The Ivorian striker talks to AUTO about launching his message of Watch Out For Kids at this year’s Italian Grand Prix, the importance of improving safety in Africa and how personal loss has reinforced his commitment to the cause…

You’re the latest ambassador to join the #3500LIVES campaign and your message of Watch Out For Kids was launched at this year’s Italian Grand Prix. Why is the campaign important to you?

It’s important to raise awareness about road safety, especially in the environment of motor sport but also in real life as well. As a Formula 1 fan, I follow all the races and sometimes it’s easy to get carried away and feel like you can use a bit of speed too. But it’s important to have all the elements for security around you. They have that in racing and we should be aware of it when we are on the road. It’s an impressive campaign and I’m really proud to join this group of superstars of sport and other areas. At the launch of my message in Monza, Nico Rosberg was there, which was wonderful, but it also involves stars such as Yohan Blake and celebrities from a wide variety of sports. To be able to bring all those legends together for such a great cause, it really gives great momentum to the quest for road safety and great visibility. I’ll do everything I can to help spread the message of security on the world’s roads

How did you come to be involved in the #3500LIVES campaign?

I met FIA President Jean Todt through a mutual friend and we spoke about how we could use my image to have an impact across the world, but more specifically in Africa, spreading good messages about safe road behaviour. I’m really happy to be part of it. These are the kind of messages that not only impact on society, but more importantly they can help save lives.

Your message is focused on children. You have legions of young fans around the world. Was that also a key aspect of your involvement? 

I have five kids so I know how important they are to me and I think it’s the same for everyone in this world. It’s about safety for everyone.  
A short while ago I lost a friend, a very good friend, a young guy who was just 33 years old. He was killed in a motorcycle accident on the road. He was not wearing a helmet and I think that could have saved him. It was heartbreaking and I don’t want to see that happen to anybody. I’ve been working on this project for some months and that happened during the period we began on this campaign, so it was devastating. I can’t do anything else than think about him and what could have been done if  he was wearing a helmet. That’s why I’m here. 

‘I lost a good friend in a motorcycle accident during the period we began on this campaign. That's why I'm here’

The deployment of the new visual will be focused on Africa, where 44 per cent of all road trałic deaths on the continent involve cyclists and pedestrians. Your own foundation, the  FIA Foundation and the Prudence Foundation  will also contribute to spread the campaign’s message for safer roads across the region.  How crucial is it to improve safety in Africa?

It’s massively important. We are talking about road safety and first of all the roads have to be better in Africa. We must speak about all the other things we have to do for road safety,  such as wearing helmets and using seat belts, but we also need to improve the infrastructure in Africa to give people safe roads to use. It’s  a big part of the solution.

After 20 years at the highest levels of football, you brought your playing career to a close last year. That’s a hard thing for a professional sportsman to do. Do you miss playing?

I think I will miss it for the rest of my life. But it’s the end of a cycle, as a player, and since last year I’ve embarked on a new life in which I’m meeting some very interesting people, such  as Jean Todt, and I’m working on a few projects for the future, so I’m still busy. 

You’ve spoken about your desire to play a role in the Ivorian Football Association (FIF) to develop football in your home country. Is that an ambition you still hold? 

I need to speak with a lot of people to understand what the needs are. If I’m able to  go for it, to have a little impact and make some improvement on what has been done recently, then why not? Let’s see.

Finally, tell us a little bit about your passion for motor sport. Your first professional football contract was with Le Mans, wasn’t it?

It was and I still have the noise of the cars in my ears after all these years! I lived in Le Mans for four years and it’s a city of sport – football, basketball and of course motor racing with the Le Mans 24 Hours. It is a massive event there and I grew up with it, so I’m a big fan.