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Last Updated: Monday, 1 November, 2004, 15:10 GMT
Chelsea legend Zola awarded OBE
Gianfranco Zola
Zola was a firm favourite for the fans at Chelsea
Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola was awarded an OBE in a special ceremony in Rome on Monday afternoon.

Zola received the title of Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire from the British ambassador.

"I'm extremely proud. My first thought goes to my parents. It is a incredible for them to know their son has been honoured," Zola told Italian TV.

"I am proud of being Italian and Sardinian but I also feel that England is my second fatherland."

The British embassy described Zola as "the most enduring and popular foreign player in the history of Chelsea" and praised his support for charities.

Zola played for the Blues for seven years but returned to Italy to finish his career with Cagliari in 2003 and will retire at the end of this season.

The Italian international, 38, moved to London for 4.5m from Parma in 1996.

Zola scored 80 goals and helped the club win six trophies during his seven seasons at Stamford Bridge.

"The 2002-2003 season was his last with Chelsea, and he left the club with style, scoring 16 goals," the embassy said.

"Despite the pleas of fans to remain with the team, he decided to return to his native Sardinia in 2003, having made a remarkable contribution to English football."

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