Djibril Cisse has been knocked down many times in his sporting life, but like any good fighter, he has always managed to lift himself back up again. Many observers believed his international career – which dates back to May 2002 – to be well and truly over, following his many injuries and self-imposed exile in the low-profile Greek Championship. But Djib did his talking on the pitch this season and has more than merited his inclusion in Les Bleus’ 23-man squad.
To get to this point, the former Auxerre forward has had to deal with a chronic run of bad luck and twists of fate that might have forced lesser players to hang up their boots. However, the Frenchman has never let his head drop, demonstrating considerable mental and physical strength to come back even better than he was before. Everything had started so well for Cisse, invited to the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ as a keen 21-year-old, boosted by the label of top scorer in Ligue 1 that season. But he could do nothing to prevent the collective collapse of the defending world champions, who failed to progress from the group stage. In the run-up to UEFA Euro 2004 in Portugal, he was sent off while playing for France’s U-21 team and received a 3-match suspension. As a result, Jacques Santini, then coach of the senior side, left him back at home.
In the autumn of the same year, during a very promising start to his Liverpool career, the explosive striker suffered a double fracture of the left tibia. After much hard work and determination, he made a tremendous comeback, finishing leading scorer of France’s FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. But as Germany 2006 approached, fate caught up with Cisse once again. During his country’s final preparatory match against China, the very day before the squad’s planned departure for the tournament, he fell victim to the same injury, only this time it was his right leg that was affected.
After fighting back to full fitness once again, the strong-willed frontman relaunched his career with Marseille, where he regained his form and began finding the back of the net on a regular basis. Seemingly back on track at domestic and international level, he was included in France’s preliminary pool for Euro 2008, but Lady Luck had one last trick up her sleeve for him. Cisse was cut from the squad along with six others, as it was pared down to 23 players, and he took no part in the competition.
It was back to square one for Cisse, first at Sunderland, then with Panathinaikos, a decision that would pay huge dividends. A Greek League and Cup double – inspired by Cisse’s 29 goals in 47 matches – followed, as did the long-awaited South Africa 2010 call-up. He will make his way to the FIFA World Cup full of confidence, hopeful that his misfortune is finally behind him.