Drogba and Carteron hope to offer opportunities to African players

Didier Drogba Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The combination of Didier Drogba and Patrice Carteron at Phoenix Rising has the potential to open more doors for players from the African continent to feature at the ambitious second-tier side.

Player-co-owner Drogba and his friend and coach Carteron, have both told KweséESPN that they hope to open doors for African players to feature in the United States in the near future.

Drogba had a major hand in Carteron, a CAF Champions League winner with Tout Puissant Mazembe and successful former coach with Mali, taking up residence in Arizona, and the duo now hope to form a successful double-act that helps the club win a place Major League Soccer in the coming years.

The duo have a long history dating back to when they played against one another some 16 years ago in the French league, with striker Drogba netting twice against former defender Carteron.

Drogba's long-time personal trainer is also the best friend of Carteron, while the latter has played a mentor role to the former Chelsea star in the past.

"I used to work individually with him to prepare for Champions League games and that kind of thing," Carteron tells KweséESPN. "He's a natural leader, all the players want to learn from him.

"One of my motivations was also to be his last coach. I said to myself that when you have that kind of opportunity, it is rare in your life that you can coach somebody like Didier Drogba, so I was very happy and proud to come and work with him every day.

"You have to pay attention of course because he is close to 40 years old, but he is always very motivated and leads by example every day in training."

Drogba, whose foray into the business of football is about planning for life away from the pitch when he finally does hang up his boots, says he has already gained a lot of knowledge from Carteron.

"I am learning a lot with him, his experiences he had as a coach and a manager in France and in Africa. He is a friend, so it always easier when you work with a friend who is talented and has the skills," Drogba says.

"You can see that in what he did since he came here, we won I don't know how many consecutive games and we had one of the best defences in the league. He did a great job because it wasn't easy."

Drogba hopes to be able to offer players from Africa the chance to play in the United States, either at Phoenix Rising or elsewhere.

"The league already has a lot of African players, but I hope my presence here will be an opportunity to bring more players and give them an opportunity to get better contracts, to get respected and to have a chance in their life. It's what it's about.

"People say, 'football players are making money', but it is actually a way to deliver from this [hardship], it's their life. It's a different job but they still have to work to earn their money."

Carteron is now looking ahead to the 2018 United Soccer League season and building a squad that can do better than their fifth-place finish in 2017.

He says he will be using his knowledge of football on the African continent to try and bring in some new players, having already signed Ghanaian Gladson Awako from former side Mazembe.

"I know Africa and it's a fantastic way for us to find some very good players and I'm sure in the next months we will have some other opportunities [to sign players].

"There are so many talented players in Africa and I know most of them are very motivated to join us and come to the United States because for everybody on earth," he added. "They want to come one day to the United States.

"I am still watching many games in the African leagues and [looking at] players."