In Ghana, we spoke to a few of Michael Essien’s friends and colleagues to gain understanding of how they see the midfielder, and what it was that made them want to support his Foundation and the Game of Hope and Inspiration over the weekend.
Here, the second group share their thoughts on the Chelsea man…
Ricardo Carvalho – former Chelsea and Real Madrid team-mate
Michael invited me and having played with him for a long time, he is a good friend of mine. I couldn’t say no. He is doing a good job with his Foundation and I came to help. I have a lot of respect for Essi, it’s for a good reason to be here and I enjoyed the game even though we lost. The people were happy and there was music and dancing in the stadium, so it was nice to see.
Marcel Desailly – former Chelsea defender, Ghanaian-born former France international who coached the Africa XI
I was very pleased that we could be involved again, and with many current or ex-Chelsea players here too. The concept of peace and hope is very good, and I’m happy to help. I was here two years ago and coached the World team, this time I coached the Africsns, and I won both games so I am a lucky guy! I hope it helps in the future because I am a pro-licence holder and have been working for two-and-a-half years, so it will give me motivation to be a coach in the future. Not in Europe, maybe Asia or the Middle East to build up some experience before trying to come to Europe.
Geremi – former Chelsea team-mate and Cameroon international
I flew straight from the airport to be here. It was an honour when Michael called me to come and play, and to be able to meet friends and play in this huge game is so enjoyable. Michael was like a young brother to me at Chelsea.
Mohamadou Diarra – former Lyon team-mate, now with Fulham
I am not on holiday, I am making my rehabilitation from injury, but I know Michael very well, since maybe 12 or 13 years ago when he was really young. He came to play in Lyon with me and I started to know this good person with a great heart. He is an example for all the young players in Ghana, and Africa as a whole. To get so many players here in the same place is a fantastic achievement, and this charity game will make a lot of people happy. He is the one who could do it in Ghana and I am really happy for him. We can only say thanks to him. That’s why I’m here, I knew I couldn’t play in the game but I wanted to be here for him. My rehabilitation is important and I wouldn’t just do this for anyone, but for him I was happy to help.
Jay-Jay Okocha – former Bolton and Nigeria midfielder
Michael is a nice humble guy. I think he has the right character. When you’re a nice person you will have a lot of friends and I am one of them. For me it’s a must to come here and support him. It’s difficult to find the right words to quantify it, but what he has done for Africa is amazing. When the president of the country says that wherever he goes, Michael’s name is mentioned, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Pascal Chimbonda – former Wigan, Spurs and Sunderland defender
Michael is my friend, and so many people wanted to come to support the event. It’s good to be a part of it and help the Michael Essien Foundation. I the future it will be nice to see more things like this.
Lomana Tresor Lua-Lua – former Newcastle and Portsmouth forward
Obviously Michael is a very nice guy. You can see when you put him in front of people to talk he is a really shy boy, he’s really like that. It’s nice to give something back to his community. It’s a great cause and he is trying to help the youngsters for the future. Being an ambassador for UNICEF in Congo myself, I know what it is like, and it’s a good thing. It is said sometimes that footballers don’t do many positive things, but it shows you we can do good. It shows how powerful football is, and that’s thanks to Michael.