ESSIEN: A HUMBLING WEEKEND
Michael Essien has spoken of his pride following his Game of Hope and Inspiration in Ghana on Saturday.
The Chelsea midfielder, who spent last season on loan with Real Madrid, hosted a charity match featuring a World XI and African XI in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, attracting some of the top talent from the continent as well as an array of former Chelsea team-mates.
It was the second time Essien has helped organise such an event, and this time led his side to a 4-2 victory following the defeat by the same scoreline two years ago, scoring the first goal from the penalty spot himself.
'I hope the fans enjoyed the match too. It was nice to be on the winning team this time, getting revenge for the 4-2 defeat two years ago,' he smiled. 'I don't normally take penalties but they said I had to, and the pressure of that is much less than having to hold a microphone and speak to so many people, so I was okay to take it and thankfully I scored.'
It left the 30-year-old feeling satisfied with his work, but was quick to thank his many helpers and friends for making the event possible.
'I was very happy to be able to bring so many friends and footballers out to Ghana for the match,' he said. 'I was humbled that they would give up their time to come and play in this game and I hope they enjoyed themselves while they were here.'
Also part of the trip was a visit to meet the Ghanaian president, Dr John Dramani Mahama,whose address provided further evidence of just how influential a figure Essien is in his native land.
'It was an honour to be able to meet the president of my country, and hear him speak so highly of what the Foundation is trying to do,' commented the player. 'His words are an inspiration to me and I hope to continue the work we have been doing - of course I owe a lot to the brilliant team that supports me, who just like two years ago made it such a special occasion.'
Essien will now enjoy a much-deserved holiday before reporting back to Cobham in early July. When he arrives, he will be greeted by a manager he knows well, not just from Stamford Bridge, but having worked with Jose Mourinho in Spain last season too.
'I had a good year away with Real Madrid,' he said. 'I really enjoyed the experience and working with Jose Mourinho again, and I am looking forward to seeing him again after my holidays. I was very happy to hear he was appointed the new manager, and I hope we can be successful next season.'