The international soccer community was shook today by the news that Didier Drogba, who gained fame as one of the most elite strikers of all-time at Chelsea FC, came out of retirement Wednesday evening.
The Cote d’Ivoire international, who last played for Montreal Impact FC of Major League Soccer, announced the news on Twitter:
— Didier Drogba (@didierdrogba) April 12, 2017
The club has also confirmed the news as of approximately 4:30 p.m. CST Wednesday:
— Phoenix Rising FC (@PHXRisingFC) April 12, 2017
It’s a largely unexpected plot-twist, as the 39-year-old had not played since his retirement from MLS in Nov. 2016. As part of the deal, Drogba will be a co-owner of Phoenix Rising FC, which is seeking one of four MLS expansion bids to be awarded over the next two years.
Drogba apparently had offers to go to China and England to play at the top tiers of club soccer, but turned those down to pursue this player-owner role, according to an interview with the BBC. The deal is the first of its kind in international club soccer history.
“After seeing first hand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch,” Drogba said in the club’s official press release. “I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS.”
Drogba is not the first player to try and get an MLS bid going, but he is the first active player to attempt to advance an expansion bid for his club.
Landon Donovan is part of an ownership group for San Diego’s MLS bid, while Alexi Lalas is a vocal supporter of Detroit’s MLS bid. Taylor Twellman, an MLS lifer, was a major proponent of St. Louis’ MLS bid prior to the city’s opposition to a proposition to help fund a stadium downtown. Of course, David Beckham is guaranteed an MLS franchise in Miami as part of his former LA Galaxy contract.
Phoenix Rising FC is a team in American soccer’s second-tier USL soccer league, the favored breeding ground for MLS development programs and is one of a handful of USL programs (including San Antonio and Tampa Bay) to try and gain one of four franchises.
Phoenix Rising FC games can be found in English and Spanish on YurView Arizona Cox channels 7 and 1007 (for High Definition) and live-streaming on YouTube. The club’s next match is April 23 vs. Swope Park Rangers.