Essien ponders Stars return

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Michael EssienMichael EssienGhanaians will have to wait until next week — at least — to know whether or not football star Michael Essien will make his long-anticipated return to the Black Stars after the Real Madrid midfielder dropped a hint he would make a formal announcement on his international future after next week’s star-studded charity match in Accra.  

Essien, who took a temporary retirement from the national team three years ago following recurrent career-threatening injuries while on national assignments and for his London club, Chelsea, told accra-based Citi FM yesterday that his decision would be known after the June 8 charity match at the Accra Sports Stadium dubbed ‘The Game of Hope’ being organised by the Michael Essien Foundation.

“Let me come down and finish my charity game,” said Essien, who is due to play his last game for the Spanish giants this weekend before returning to Chelsea after his season-long loan spell at the Santiago Bernabeu 

“I will announce the rest about whether I am coming or not after the game. We’ll talk about that after.” 

The midfield giant went on international exile after the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola — he played for just 45 minutes in Ghana’s group game against Cote d’Ivoire after which he suffered another freak injury at training — in order to concentrate on his Chelsea career and make full recovery. That longer-than-expected hibernation has robbed the national team of the influential role of Essien in Ghana’s last three tournaments, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

After watching Essien and a host of football icons such as Frank Lampard, Djibril Cisse and Didier Drogba feature in an Africa XI versus World XI charity game, Ghanaians will be waiting with bated breath hoping to hear good news from the one time cult figure of Ghana football on his international future.

Black Stars coach Kwasi Appiah, who has spoken with Essien on a number of occasions on his future with the national team, will be keen to have the player back in the team for the remaining World Cup qualifiers, particularly the last group qualifier against Zambia. With Essien’s charity game clashing with Ghana’s away match with Sudan in Khartoum, and another qualifier against Lesotho in Maseru, it is unlikely the midfielder will feature for the national team earlier than the Zambia clash in September.

Meanwhile, Essien’s closest friend in the national team, Sulley Muntari, has pleaded to all players on self-imposed exile, including his AC Milan team-mate Kevin-Prince Boateng to end their international isolation. 

The last two years has seen many first-choice players, including captain Asamoah Gyan, taking temporary breaks from international football citing various reasons. 

Not long after the 2010 World Cup, Boateng announced his retirement from the team, followed in recent months by the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan.

With Ghana fighting for qualification to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Muntari believes it is time for the ‘retired’ players to return to strengthen Ghana’s push for a third consecutive World Cup appearance. 

"(Kevin-Boateng) Prince is one amazing player I have played with, he is a good guy as well and we would love to have him back because we know what exactly he can give and not only him," Muntari told the media after the Black Stars training in Accra. 

"I will also plead with Michael Essien, Dede Ayew and Jordan Ayew to join us because they are very good players and important to us. 

"If we get these players back definitely no one can compete with us so I will use this opportunity to plead with them to probably change their mind and join us soon.'' 

Story: Maurice Quansah 

(with files from supersport. com/mtnfootball.com)


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