SWINDON, United Kingdom, May 23 – Chelsea’s Champions League hero Didier Drogba was given a rapturous welcome as he carried the Olympic flame on Wednesday, the day after announcing he was leaving the club.
Drogba was mobbed by thousands of people lining the route as he jogged through Swindon town centre in western England with his torch on the fifth day of the relay ahead of the 2012 London Olympics.
Despite being far from Chelsea’s west London base, many of the crowd were wearing the club’s shirts.
The 34-year-old Ivory Coast striker, who scored the equaliser and then the winning penalty in Saturday’s dramatic Champions League final win over Bayern Munich, said Tuesday he was leaving the club and is reported to be in talks with Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.
He has admitted he may have been persuaded to stay at Chelsea if they had not won the Champions League for the first time in their history, but with his goal achieved it is time to move on.
Speaking to BBC radio, he said: “Winning the game was the key. Not me scoring the penalty.
“Winning the game was the turning point: that’s why I have decided to say goodbye.
“We made the story together and I want people to remember that. This is the best time to move on.
“Yes, there’s a chance that if the result was different, maybe I would be here.
“We were talking for many weeks, but the turning point was based on the fact I won everything I could and scored in most of the finals we have played, trying to make a difference.
“I hope everyone will understand. Everything I did was for the fans and I hope they understand.”
Most of the torchbearers on the 10-week, 8,000-mile (12,875-kilometre) relay around Britain, are people who have done charity work or been nominated, but celebrities and Olympians past and present are also taking part.