VANCOUVER, BC – It’s not every day you get an opportunity to play against one of your childhood heroes. OK, let’s face it – that almost never happens.
But it very well could for Kekuta Manneh on Wednesday night at BC Place, when Whitecaps FC host Montreal Impact in the decisive second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship Final (7 p.m. PT - tickets still available).
Manneh, a native of The Gambia, grew up idolizing Ivorian striker Didier Drogba – Ivory Coast and The Gambia are both located in Western Africa.
The longtime Chelsea striker, who joined Montreal in the summer transfer window, made his much-anticipated MLS debut on Saturday. And Impact head coach Frank Klopas confirmed after the match that Drogba will play again on Wednesday in Vancouver.
“He’s a hero of mine,” Manneh, 20, told reporters earlier this month. “A lot of the African players look up to him and I do too. He had a fantastic career so it will be really exciting to play against him.”
Drogba, who played 31 minutes on Saturday in Montreal’s 1-0 loss to Philadelphia Union, is best known for his time at Chelsea. He is the club’s fourth highest goal scorer (164 goals in 381 appearances) and in 2012 was voted by fans as Chelsea’s greatest player of all time.
Now, he’s going to try to help Montreal win their third straight Voyageurs Cup.
The ‘Caps, meanwhile, are still searching for their first.
Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson has said time and time again this year that he wants nothing more than to end Vancouver’s Voyageurs Cup drought.
That will be the motivation on Wednesday – for Robinson and his players.
Going up against a player of Drogba’s stature only adds to the occasion.
“For us to get the opportunity to play against players like that, world class superstars, is a great challenge for young players,” Robinson told reporters earlier this month. “I [tell my players], ‘Go and play against Didier Drogba.’ There’s not much more you need to say is there?”
SHOW ME THE MANNEH
With his assist on Cristian Techera's goal in Saturday's win over FC Dallas, Manneh is now tied with Steven Beitashour for the team lead with five assists. The 20-year-old winger has two goals and three assists in his last four matches.
"He's just hit a vein of form at the moment," Robinson told reporters after Saturday's match. "His understanding of what I'm asking him to do on both sides of the ball, he's getting. The kid was dynamite tonight. But he can still improve."
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