ESSIEN'S HOPE AND INSPIRATION
The official Chelsea website caught up with Michael Essien this week, with the news that the midfielder will once again be organising a charity match in his native Ghana this summer.
Essien, who turned 30 in December, has spent this season on loan at Real Madrid, helping them into the semi-finals of the Champions League. They meet Borussia Dortmund in the first leg tonight, though the Ghanaian remains behind in Spain as he recovers from a recent injury, allowing him the opportunity to discuss important off-field matters.
It was May 2011 when Essien last oversaw the organisation of such a fixture, a Peace Match at the national stadium in Accra, which attracted a full house to witness a World XI triumph 4-2 over an African XI, made up of some of the greatest players the continent has ever seen.
This year, the title of the game is the Michael Essien Foundation Game of Hope and Inspiration, with the aim of raising much-needed funds for five African charities, yet to be decided. His own organisation has already opened public toilets, begun work on a library and helped renovate a hospital in his hometown of Awutu Breku.
'I'm very proud of what we achieved last time,' he said. 'We weren't expecting so many people to turn up, which they did despite heavy rain, and the whole thing made me very happy.
'We managed to get a lot of players down, which isn't easy, but they came, and hopefully this year we will have even more. We're targeting more ex-players, as there are international games going on for current players, but we hope we can get them to come.
'I've not spoken too much to the Chelsea guys about it yet but we have sent out invites and I hope there will be many who can come along. I've also sent them to the Real Madrid guys, so I hope they can come too.'
Plans are of course well underway, with Essien's team of helpers hoping for a full house at the game on June 8.
'There is still a lot of work to do, for me and my team, to raise awareness with the supporters and make sure we have the players there to make it bigger and better than last time,' he said.
'Ghanaians love football, so I know they will want to be there to see it. I'm looking forward to it, and can't wait to see so many happy people again.
'After the game there is a big concert, featuring Wyclef Jean as well, which Florent Malouda has helped with, and that will also be in the stadium.'
Essien was also asked to give a brief summary of his season in Spain.
'It's been good, I can't complain,' he said. 'I'm happy and have enjoyed the football. I've played a lot at right-back and I've enjoyed playing, it doesn't matter what position, it is just nice to be on the pitch.'