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Surprised Ivorian FA delays Drogba tribute

AP, Monday 11 Aug 2014
Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba runs after the ball during the 2014 World Cup Group C soccer match against Greece at the Castelao arena in Fortaleza June 24, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

After 12 years of service and a record 65 goals in 104 games, Didier Drogba's international retirement from the Ivory Coast team at the age of 36 has been met with "surprise" by the country's federation, which said it wants to talk with the veteran striker over his decision.

Instead of expressing gratitude to its leading scorer of all time, the Ivory Coast Football Federation responded to Drogba's announcement with a statement saying it was taken off guard and hadn't been informed.

"The Ivorian Football Federation intends to make immediate contact (with Drogba) to determine the underlying reasons for this decision before giving its official position on the end of the international career of the player Didier Drogba," FIF President Sidy Diallo said, delaying a tribute to one of its best-ever players.

Drogba announced his decision on Friday after representing his country since 2002 and captaining the national team for the last eight years. His final game was the last-minute loss to Greece at the World Cup in Brazil which denied the Ivorians a place in the second round for the first time.

Drogba played in all three of Ivory Coast's World Cup appearances, in 2006, 2010 and this year. And although he couldn't inspire the Ivorians to a major title during his time with the team — losing two African Cup finals — Drogba was undoubtedly one of the West Africa nation's greatest players.

"It is with much sadness that I have decided to retire from international football," Drogba said on his personal website. "These past 12 years in the national team have been full of emotions. From my first call up to my last match I have always tried to give my best for my country."

Drogba's role with the national team had changed over the last 18 months, and he was used off the bench at the 2013 African Cup of Nations and at this summer's World Cup in Brazil.

Yet the Ivorian federation said his decision to quit was a "surprise" and he still had an "important role" in the team under new coach Herve Renard, citing qualifiers starting next month for the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Morocco in January and February.

Drogba's career with Ivory Coast never matched the highs he reached in club football, where he won three Premier League titles and the Champions League with Chelsea. He couldn't end a long trophy drought for the Ivory Coast, which is yet to add to its lone African title in 1992.

Drogba missed a penalty in a shootout loss to Egypt in the 2006 Cup of Nations final, and failed with another spot-kick in open play before the Ivorians lost to Zambia in the final in another shootout six years later.

In his retirement announcement, Drogba said "all my goals, all my caps, all our victories" were for the fans. He also thanked teammates and welcomed new coach Renard, who was appointed to replace Sabri Lamouchi last month following the World Cup.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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