Chelsea FC striker Dider Drogba has announced his retirement from international football after almost 12 years of service with the Ivory Coast national team.
The 36-year-old, who took his international bow in September 2002 against South Africa, scored a record 65 goals in 104 appearances for the ‘Elephants’.
Drogba said: “It is with much sadness that I have decided to retire from international football.”
The two-time Caf Player of the year (2006 and 2012) captained Cote d’Ivoire to their second Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) final berth, scoring a vital match-winning goal in the country’s semi-final elimination of Nigeria.
He inspired the West African nation to their first-ever Fifa World Cup appearance in Germany eight years ago- and grabbed the nation’s maiden tournament goal as well- before making two more subsequent appearances.
“I am very proud to have been captain of this team for eight years and to have contributed to placing my country on the world stage of football, taking part in three World Cups and two African Cup of Nations finals,” the Abidjan-born footballer added.
“I cannot convey enough thanks to the fans for all the love and support during these years. All my goals, all my caps, all our victories are for you.
Drogba missed a crucial penalty in the final of the 2012 Afcon championship in Libreville, Gabon, which forever remains a nightmare in the football icon’s folklore, as Cote d’Ivoire failed to add to their 1992 triumph in Senegal. That, coupled with his inability to lay his hands on the Afcon trophy or fly the country’s flag in the knock-out stage of the World Cup, after three attempts, counts amongst his misfortunes.
Nonetheless, he is the first and only African footballer so far to have won the prestigious Golden Foot, leaving a permanent mould of his footprint on “The Champions Promenade” on the seafront of the Principality of Monaco in 2013 while playing for Galatasaray.
The ex-Galatasraay and Marseille striker earned his 100th cap in the build-up to this summer’s World Cup in Brazil in a warm-up friendly win over Bosnia-Hercegovina and scored a penalty as well. His several substitutes appearances at the mundial proper strengthened the coach Sabri Lamouchi’s side but proved insufficient, as Ivory Coast bowed out in the group stage for the third successive time.
“I also owe much gratitude to my team-mates – the players with whom I have shared all these emotions and I wish you all much success for the future and a very warm welcome to the new manager (Herve Renard),” said Drogba.
The striker re-signed a one-year deal with Chelsea a fortnight ago, returning for a second spell after winning ten trophies at the Stamford Bridge outfit between 2004 and 2012.
His 34 goals in European competitions remain a Chelsea record, as do his nine strikes in nine cup finals. he is also responsible for the champions League-winning spot-kick which sealed a first-ever European Cup for the Blues in the summer of 2012.