Didier Drogba (L) and Yaya Toure Reuters
Ivory Coast's iconic striker Didier Drogba said local competitions must be promoted to replenish the national team following a disastrous year that saw then miss out on the 2018 World Cup and suffer a first-round exit from the 2017 African Cup of Nations.
"There is local football but the stadiums are empty. It lacks passion and we must give a spark to the local scene. Players like Yaya and Kolo Toure and Zokora emerged on the local scene and learned football in Ivory Coast before exploding abroad," the two-time African player of the year told RFI.
"We must give it flair again so the Ivoirians will go back to the stadiums. It is the base and the federation must make a lesson from this failure."
Ivory Coast were beaten by Morocco in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers to miss a spot among the world's elite for the first time since 2006.
"I think that we had the players to go through but it was complicated for the young players. We had the experience of these situations but you can't leave a young team like that. Some of them called me to ask how should they take on some of the big games," the 39-year-old added.
"Personally I felt they were abandoned. I am sad for them because they missed an important thing in their path but it seemed a logical consequence. I am not pointing the finger at anyone but it is time to assume responsibilities and to try to revive Ivorian football."
Drogba revealed that he intends to invest in local soccer and help promote it. He is a director of the Williamsville athletic club, who finished runners-up in the Ivorian league last season.
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