A lot of people ask me… why Phoenix Rising FC?
The answer is simple: I love it here. I believe in the project. I believe in the people.
But there’s also more to it. Let me explain…
When I was leaving Montreal Impact, I had offers from around the world. They came in from Brazil, England, France, even China. But one stood out. It was different. It was a new club in Phoenix, Arizona and after a series of long conversations with the club’s ownership – most often Berke Bakay, the Governor of Rising who I knew from my time playing in Turkey – I really started to feel like maybe this was the right project for me.
It was a unique opportunity. To be a part of something from the ground up. It also allowed me to become an owner and begin the transition into my post-playing career. You see it’s important to me to be seen not only as a footballer, but also as a businessman and someone who is working on his after-football career. Someone who is thinking about how to see the game, but from a different angle. I saw it as a player, and now – as I was weighing up my options – I had the chance to come to this organization that was going to allow me to see it in a different, more comprehensive way.
But I also had a lot left to give on the field. I wasn’t done playing. And I remember one day, before the decision to come and be a part of Phoenix Rising FC was final, I got a text from Berke. It was a photo of him and our General Manager Bobby Dulle. They were holding the USL Cup.
The text read:
Come win this with us.
That was it.
I was in.
Before there was Drogba, I tell people, there was just Didier.
I think, in many ways, life is taking me back to where I started. To a time before people knew me. It wasn’t that long ago that I was a young kid, walking around in France. No one recognized me. No one knew who I was.
And now, when I look around the locker room at my teammates, that’s who I see. Young versions of myself. I was once them.
You see I feel like I have this very interesting relationship with life, and I believe that god is taking me back to this place for a reason. When I was young, when I was one of them, I didn’t have a lot of people helping me to become the player I was. So, maybe it’s my responsibility to help these young players. To help them become the next great striker, or whatever it is they want to be. To give something back. That makes me happy.
And what I tell them is that if they really want to do it, it’s going to be easier for them than it was for me. I mean that. They’re more talented. They do things with the ball that I couldn’t do at their age. But the difference between us is simple. It’s between the ears. Mentally, I’m stronger.
That’s because to succeed in my career, I had to fight. I’m the proof that hard work beats talent. You have talent? Great, keep it. Keep your talent. I don’t care. Because I’m going to work until I surpass you. I’m never going to give up.
And that’s what I tell them.
And that’s why every day at training I’m behind them.
And that’s why I’m pushing them.
Because they can be whoever they want to be.
They just have to fight.
They just need to be strong mentally.
And I can help them with that.
I joke with people that they need to give me the cup, so I can retire in peace. And that if I don’t get it, I’ll come back.
But the truth is, this is my last season. And now the playoffs are just days away. That cup that Berke texted me a photo of years ago is within sight.
Maybe we win. Maybe we don’t. God will decide that.
But whatever we do, from the owners to the front office, to the players, to the fans… we’ll do it together.
We’ll rise as one.