Don’t lie: you’ve watched Didier Drogba’s hat trick more than once, too.
So you’ve also probably seen the big orange banner in the east stand of Stade Saputo, in the highlights, in this video or elsewhere. The ‘Drogba Legend’ banner, the one that came straight from Stamford Bridge to Quebec.
But how does a banner cross the Atlantic, exactly? Marco Montali, a founding member of new Montreal Impact supporters group 1642 MTL, has the answer.
Let’s go back to Aug. 8, the first day of the English Premier League season. Montali’s son, an Arsenal fan, is watching Chelsea draw 2-2 at home to Swansea, probably having a laugh, unaware that the Gunners would lose to West Ham at the Emirates the next day.
Montali is not exactly watching the game, but as he walks by the room, the ‘Drogba Legend’ banner shows up on the TV screen, live from Drogba's old stomping grounds of Stamford Bridge.
“Later in the day,” Montali recalls in a phone interview, “I’m driving in the car, and I tell my son, ‘Why couldn’t we get [the banner] here for at least one game?’ No harm in trying, right? We’re nobody, but maybe they’ll ship it to us. I’ll pay everything, the group will take care of everything.”
The weekend over, Montali sends an email to Michael Mabee, the Impact’s director of game day operations. Chelsea trained at Montreal’s new training center during preseason. Surely Mabee has contacts at Chelsea that he can pass over to the group?
A week later, Mabee sends the group an email. It reads: “It's on its way.”
Excitement soon turned to panic when the banner landed in Montreal at 4 pm on the Friday before Drogba was due to make his debut – too late to retrieve it until the next morning.
- Catch more IMFC news and notes at ImpactMontreal.com
“The Impact go all the way up to the vice president of the courier company to release the thing for us,” Montali says. “[The response is,] 'No way. Nothing opens on weekends.’ Oh man. We were down.”
Thankfully, this was before the game on Aug. 22, where Drogba played only 30 minutes in a 1-0 home loss to the Philadelphia Union. And thankfully (?), Drogba then hurt his toe, giving the group more time to arrange a proper unveiling of the banner, complete with a ‘From London, pour le roi’ (for the king) message. One Impact spokesperson was so excited by the presentation, he tapped on this writer’s shoulder to draw his attention to it just before it began.
“It worked out OK,” Montali says.
At first, the group merely pushed for a one-game loan. But David Johnstone, owner of the banner, was having none of it. He has assured the group that the banner can stay while Drogba is with the Impact.
Yeah, that “worked out OK.”