* Drogba calls quits on national team career
* Scored 61 goals in 103 games (Adds byline, details, more quotes)
By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba announced his international retirement on Friday after scoring 61 goals in 103 appearances for his country.
"It is with much sadness that I have decided to retire from international football," the 36-year-old said on his website (www.didierdrogba.com).
The Chelsea forward was a fixture in the national side for 12 years, playing in three World Cups and twice helping the team finish runners-up at the African Nations Cup.
"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 added.
"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."
Drogba, who was brought up in France, was an emerging striker at Guingamp when he won his first cap against South Africa in 2002.
He played in eight international tournaments but never as part of a winning team.
Drogba helped his country qualify for the 2006 African Nations Cup in Egypt, but had a penalty saved in the post-match shootout as the Ivorians lost.
In the 2012 final against Zambia, he squandered a second- half penalty that would have probably given the Ivorians the continental title but they went on to lose on spot-kicks.
He was also in the Ivorian side which gave up a last minute goal to Greece at this year's World Cup in Brazil to miss out on progressing past the group phase for the first time.
During the last 18 months Drogba's talismanic role in the team has been reduced by the decision of coach Sabri Lamouchi, with whom he had a strained relationship, to bench him for key matches and leave him out of others.
Drogba's decision came just days after the Ivorians appointed Frenchman Herve Renard as their new coach.
It was expected that Drogba, who has signed a one-season deal to return to the English Premier League with Chelsea, would agree to stay on for a final tilt at a major title at next year's African Nations Cup finals in Morocco.
It is likely, however, that his deal with Chelsea prevented him from spending a month away on national team duty at a crucial stage of the season.
"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 - I love you," Drogba said.
"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," he added
Drogba, whose parents sent him to France as a child to improve his education, is also a French citizen and might have played for Les Blues, although he had already been capped by the Ivorians when he burst into the limelight with Olympique Marseille.
His uncle Michel Goba was also an Ivorian international, who played professionally in France (Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ed Osmond; firstname.lastname@example.org; +27 82 8257807; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com; To sign up for our Global Sports Forum chatroom, click on https://forms.thomsonreuters.com/global_sports_forum)