Côte d'Ivoire striker Aruna Dindane aims to repay Sven Goran Eriksson for rescuing his FIFA World Cup™ dream by leading Les Elephants to glory in South Africa.
Dindane feared being omitted from Eriksson's 23-man squad after a contract dispute restricted his appearances at relegated Premier League club Portsmouth at the end of last season. He was initially barred from playing any more games because Portsmouth, who have debts of over £130 million, could not afford to honour an agreement to pay four million pounds to make his loan move permanent.
Lens softened their stance to allow him his moment at Wembley and he retained his place in the Côte d'Ivoire squad after impressing Eriksson during Portsmouth's march to the FA Cup final. The fractured arm sustained by the country's top striker Didier Drogba in a friendly against Japan could mean that Dindane's role could be all the more crucial.
"It was hard," he said. "All I wanted to do was play football and when I heard I would be allowed to play again, I was really happy. If you are not allowed to play because of a contract situation between two clubs it's very difficult.
I was very worried about the World Cup. The Ivory Coast has many players and if you are not playing, it could be the end of your chances.
"I told the Lens chairman that if I can't play then there's nothing I can do - maybe I would miss the World Cup and that might not be so good for me or Lens. I was very worried about the World Cup. The Ivory Coast has many players and if you are not playing, it could be the end of your chances. The coach said he would only pick players who were playing regularly for their clubs so I am grateful to him for remembering me and now I want to do well in South Africa to justify my selection."
Dindane has also revealed the secret heartache spurring him on to fire the Ivorians into the latter stages of the finals. The 28-year-old, who is joining Qatar side Lekhwiya after the tournament, was left heartbroken after daughter Reisa died of cot death when she was just six months old. Dindane has Reisa's name tattooed on his wrist and will dedicate every goal he scores in South Africa to her memory.
"Losing a baby is very painful. Only people who have been through it know what it feels like," he added. "It is very difficult to explain the hurt. Reisa was the centre of my universe and I miss not having her to go home to after training. She is my inspiration and, when things are not going well on the pitch, I look at the tattoo on my wrist and think about her.
"The memory of her is what motivates me to play football and I want to do well to make her proud. Every goal I score is dedicated to Reisa. That is why I look up to the sky whenever I celebrate. Losing a baby makes you realise what is important in life. Football is just a game."
Côte d'Ivoire are the most fancied of all the African nations competing at the first FIFA World Cup to be played on the continent. Eriksson's side have been handed a difficult draw, with Brazil, Portugal and Korea DPR in their qualifying group.
Dindane, who is competing to partner Chelsea's Drogba up front, should be recover in time. said: "It will not be easy because of the teams we have to play but we are confident of success. Most of our players have experience of playing in the top European leagues like England and Spain so we are used to competing against the best. If we can get through the group then we could surprise a few people."