Didier Drogba: 'This is the beginning of an amazing journey' for Phoenix Rising
Didier Drogba attended his first Phoenix Rising FC match on Sunday and was officially introduced to the fans after joining the club as a player-executive.
Drogba, 39, has taken on the joint roles of player, owner and club ambassador as the second-division side bid to join Major League Soccer.
The Chelsea legend signed on for two years and will eventually take the field as a player for the club.
"Together, Phoenix is going to be in the MLS," he said in an address to the crowd at half-time of Phoenix Rising's match against Swope Park Rangers of Kansas City.
Drogba reportedly turned down an offer to join Chelsea's coaching staff and another to play in China in order to join Phoenix Rising. The city is among a group of a dozen U.S. cities hoping to be awarded one of four MLS expansion bids either later this year or thereafter.
"This is the beginning of an amazing journey," Drogba added. "This is the beginning of something very important for me and I hope we are going to be together for a long time. We're going to win a lot of games here.
"[It's a] great feeling to be here with the team. I think if there wasn't this opportunity to go to the MLS, I would still be here to help the club and the city to get to the MLS. This one is a great challenge and I'm really proud to be a part of it."
Phoenix Rising governor Berke Bakay said the club are in a strong position to grow and Drogba will be a major part of that.
"We're talking about one of the best strikers to ever play the game, and I think he's going to be able to go out there and make an immediate impact," Bakay said. "MLS is very, very excited about what we are doing. They're happy with our stadium solution ... They're very happy with our ownership group. Very objectively, looking at the data, there's nobody in a better position than us.
"When you think about the demographics of Phoenix, they're twice as big as the next media market in terms of TV viewership. We have a fantastic ownership group and we also announced that Didier is going to be part of our MLS expansion ownership group, so that makes that group significantly more attractive, bringing that worldwide soccer credibility to our ownership group and puts Phoenix on the map not just locally, but around the world."
Drogba is familiar with MLS after playing for Montreal in 2015 and 2016 where he scored 22 goals in 37 games.
He has won a Champions League title and four Premier League titles with Chelsea and played in three World Cups for the Ivory Coast for whom he is the all-time record goalscorer.
Following the news that Chelsea would face Arsenal in the FA Cup final he joked that he would leave Phoenix Rising on a short-term loan in order to continue his fine form against Arsene Wenger's side.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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