Former athletes share life-lessons at MILKEN MEA Summit

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Didier Drogba talked about the wins and losses in his 20-year career as a footballer and the life lessons he is now passing on to aspiring players in his home country, the Ivory Coast. (AN Photo)
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Nicolas Anelka, former player and professional football manager, talked about the discipline needed to not only succeed as an athlete but in other areas of life. (AN Photo)
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Wladimir Klitschko discussed the power of mental strength, pointing out that ‘if you control your mind, you control everything.’ (AN Photo)
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Updated 11 February 2020

Former athletes share life-lessons at MILKEN MEA Summit

  • Insights on self-awareness, visualization and discipline were shared by former athletes at Milken Institute’s 2020 Middle East and Africa Summit in Abu Dhabi
  • Footballers Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba and boxer Wladimir Klitschko spoke of the key lessons they learnt during their lengthy careers in sport

DUBAI: International footballing superstar Didier Drogba used to envisage himself scoring goals ahead of a match before venturing onto the pitch, delegates were told on Tuesday at the Milken Institute’s 2020 Middle East and Africa Summit, in Abu Dhabi.

Insights on self-awareness, visualization and discipline were shared by former athletes during the summit.

The annual event, which gathered more than 1,000 business executives, investors, government officials and philanthropists, also welcomed former professional football players and the longest reigning Heavyweight Boxing Champion Wladimir Klitschko, in a session titled ‘Life After Sport: What Do Elite Athletes Do Next?.’

Recalling some of his most memorable moments on the pitch, retired footballer Didier Drogba, who was Ivory Coast captain from 2006 to 2014, talked about wins and losses in his 20-year career as a footballer and the life lessons he is now passing down to aspiring players in his home country, the Ivory Coast.

Looking back at the 2012 Champions League final match between his former team Chelsea and Bayern Munich, he spoke about his winning penalty shot that secured his team the cup.

“My approach was that I want to win, I am a striker and I need to do everything to help my team win,” he said during a panel discussion at the summit.

Overall, the Ivorian striker enjoyed a glittering career scoring 164 goals in 381 games and winning four Premier Leagues and the 2012 Champions League.

Drogba said he often visualized different scenarios of scoring a goal before a match, while motivating other players to do the same and manifesting a win for his team.

Today, he is the founder of ‘The Didier Drogba Foundation,’ which provides financial and material support in both health and education to people in Africa.

“We need to invest in a lot of infrastructure in Africa to give young talent the possibility to be in a better environment to progress and reach their full potential,” he said.

Drogba also expressed his keenness to contribute to the Ivory Coast Football Federation by sharing his past experience as a professional footballer. 

“In Africa, football is more than just a game, it is a way of life, and a hope for all these kids dreaming of a better future and of crossing the Mediterranean Sea.”

Meanwhile, Nicolas Anelka, former player and manager talked about the discipline needed to not only succeed as an athlete but in other areas of life.

Starting his football career at 16, the French player highlighted the importance of self and body-awareness, noting that he has continued to follow a structured lifestyle maintaining a healthy diet and exercise schedule, and getting adequate sleep.

“Listening to your body and having that awareness comes with your curiosity to learn all that you can about yourself, and you can also find the right people who can help you become better mentally and then physically,” he said. 

Similarly, former boxer Wladimir Klitschko discussed the power of mental strength, pointing out that “if you control your mind, you control everything.”

Taking part in a total of 69 boxing fights throughout his career, he rejoiced in his success and failures inside the ring, stressing that “endurance” is the key to progress in life.

“I am a challenge master,” said Klitschko. “I like to fail, because you learn the most when you fail, and you learn more about yourself and about the world.”


Tottenham look to seize on Chelsea’s Premier League slump

Updated 21 February 2020

Tottenham look to seize on Chelsea’s Premier League slump

LONDON: Jose Mourinho had almost reached the end of his lament about the current situation facing his weary Tottenham players when he turned his attention to their next Premier League game against a team he knows so well.

“The Chelsea players were watching this game on TV,” Mourinho said after Tottenham’s 1-0 home loss to Leipzig in the Champions League, “with nice sparkling water, with lemons and biscuits, enjoying the game.”

If only the outlook at Chelsea were so rosy.

Indeed, recent results suggest the predicament of Mourinho’s old club is more concerning than Tottenham’s.

Chelsea, somehow, find themselves still holding onto fourth place in the league heading into Saturday’s London derby against their nearest rivals in the race for Champions League qualification. That’s despite collecting only 15 points from its last 14 games, a dire run stretching back to the end of November.

At that time, Chelsea were on a six-match winning streak — its best since the team’s title-winning season of 2016-17 — and wasn’t too far behind Liverpool, the current runaway leader. Youngsters like Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori were regular starters, given their opportunity by an up-and-coming manager in Frank Lampard who is eager to promote youth. US winger Christian Pulisic was in his best form since his move from
Borussia Dortmund.

Fast forward three months and injuries are starting to bite, the kids are starting to feel the pace in a grueling season, and Lampard — a bright, eloquent and engaging manager — has been grumbling about the club’s failure to add numbers to the squad in January and his players’
wastefulness in front of goal.

“I must sound like a broken record,” a clearly frustrated Lampard said after seeing Chelsea get picked off in a 2-0 home loss to Manchester United on Monday.

Lampard’s main gripe is the team’s inability to finish off chances, which has become more pronounced with Abraham — a scorer of 13 league goals this season — currently out injured.

With Callum Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic also missing against United, Lampard played a front three of Willian, Michy Batshuayi and Pedro Rodriguez — a throwback to a few years ago and an era Chelsea fans probably thought they’d seen the back of.

Key midfielder N’Golo Kante joined Abraham on the injury list after going off early against United, while Lampard is still playing 38-year-old Willy Caballero in goal after dropping Kepa Arrizabalaga — signed in 2018 as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper.

It’s an uncertain period for Lampard, who is still a rookie in managerial terms, and Chelsea’s recent slump has seen as many as seven teams move within seven points or closer in the standings.

In that three-month period, Tottenham have won 29 points — a haul second only to Liverpool. That coincided exactly with Mourinho taking over as manager from Mauricio Pochettino.

The issue, now, is whether Spurs can keep it up, and Mourinho clearly has his doubts. With attackers Son Heung-min and Harry Kane out potentially for the rest of the season, Mourinho likened his team to someone “going to fight with a gun without bullets.”

Amid a hectic schedule that has seen his team play two FA Cup replays since the turn of the year, Mourinho said he has been forced to start with the same group of players for matches every three of four days. Erik Lamela and Tanguy Ndombele came off the bench against Leipzig having barely trained.

“I try to manage the pieces that we had,” he said.

Throw in the fact that Tottenham has a tight turnaround after the Leipzig match — Wednesday night to Saturday lunchtime — and Mourinho will feel he has genuine cause for grievance.

Yet, he is managing to scramble together results and a win at Stamford Bridge, where he previously enjoyed two separate trophy-winning spells as coach and was once revered, would see Tottenham climb above Chelsea.

Outmanoeuvring Mourinho, his former coach, in a 2-0 win at Tottenham in December was one of the few bright spots for Lampard in recent months. 

Doing so again would give him and Chelsea some much-needed breathing space in what is suddenly a bunched chase for Champions League qualification.