The stage is set for Michael Essien’s Game of Hope and Inspiration in Ghana on Saturday, following a wonderful welcome into the country for the travelling party on Friday.

Essien, team-mates from Chelsea, Real Madrid and the Ghanaian national team, as well as members of his Foundation team, flew into Accra yesterday to be greeted with a huge ‘Akwaaba’ at Kotoka International Airport, featuring traditional music and dancing, before enjoying a drinks reception that evening, with an auction earning thousands of pounds for the midfielder’s charity work.

Ballack, Malouda and Essien enjoy their welcome

On Saturday morning, Essien, as well as the likes of Michael Ballack, Florent Malouda and Ricardo Carvalho met the Ghanaian president, John Dramani Mahama (main picture), who welcomed them to the country and described Essien as an ‘icon’ of Ghana, a country he says has ’25 million coaches’, such is their fondness for football.

Essien, typically shy, was also persuaded to say a few words before handing the microphone to Ballac. The German explained his pride and pleasure to be involved in the afternoon’s game, which is expected to attract 40,000 people to the Accra Sports Stadium, with many millions more watching live on TV across Africa.

Ballack entertains the audience at the auction

Coverage of the game will be live on our official Twitter page, with a report to follow here on the official website later today.

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