Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien has lashed out at suggestions that he is not patriotic and denied that he took a break from the Black Stars because of injuries.
The Chelsea ace insists that he has not retired from the Black Stars but simply taking a break.
“I never stopped playing. I just asked to be excused from international duty for a while,” he explained.
The 30-year old first represented Ghana as a teenager and has hit back at suggestions from fans and media that that he is unpatriotic for not playing for Ghana.
“I think it is very unfair – people are very quick to judge we the players,” he said.
“I’ve always been there for the nation and played at every age category so if they say I am unpatriotic, it’s unfair.”
Essien last played for the Black Stars in June 2011 in a Nations Cup qualifier against Congo in Kumasi.
He has denied that the injuries he has picked up while on international duty have anything to do with his situation.
“It’s not about the injuries”, he told Ghana’s TV3 Network.
“I’ve suffered serious injuries and had nine major surgeries but thank God I am back and still playing.”
Essien will return to Chelsea this season having spent a season on loan at Real Madrid under new Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.
In his one season away competition for places in Chelsea’s midfield has become more intense but Essien is determined to earn his due this season.
“I don’t think I have anything to prove now – I’ve done that already,” he said.
“I’m just looking to go back to Chelsea, train hard and make myself available.
“If the manager needs me, I will work hard for the team as much as I can.”
If he agrees to return he would join the Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre a well as Kevin-Prince Boateng in making themselves available for Ghana again.
By Zambian journalist NEBAT MBEWE of Zambia Daily Mail
AFTER last Saturday’s debacle at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium, a colleague, with tongue in cheek, asked if all the players the Sudanese used in holding Zambia to a 1-1 draw were eligible.
It was a futile attempt to lighten the anguish of the Chipolopolo “giving away” two priceless points and thus virtually surrendering the quest for World Cup qualification.
It is now advantaged Ghana who are playing superbly well, are topping Group D on 12 points – one ahead of Zambia - and host the Chipolopolo in Kumasi for the decisive match in September.
Even the most optimistic Zambian fans surely now know that the Chipolopolo’s dream for a maiden appearance at the World Cup finals is in a mess, and agonisingly so because it is by and large self-inflicted.
No matter how patriotic one may want to be, the reality staring down at the Chipolopolo is that it will take an incredible feat to dim the Black Stars, who would also have to have a drastic dip in form in the last game.
Unfortunately for Zambia, the Black Stars are evidently well focused on the challenge ahead. They are not taking anything for granted.
Past differences are being patched up with the help of the highest office in the land and Prodigal sons are returning to the fold.
They are stocking up all the arsenal they can get hold of and I can bet you the last ngwee in my piggy bank that against Zambia they will not play for a draw (which is good enough for them), but an outright win.
The Ghanaians are bound to be wary of Zambia’s inconsistence as well as the edge the Chipolopolo have over the Black Stars in the most recent exchanges.
Zambia beat Ghana 1-0 in the semi-finals of the Afcon 2012 finals in Equatorial Guinea on the way to winning the title for the first time. The Chipolopolo got the better of the Black Stars by the same margin again in June last year in the first exchange of the current race for the Brazil 2014 World Cup finals.
Will Zambia once again use Ghana as a stepping stone, this time for eventual qualification for the World Cup finals? Some fans believe this will be so. Some contend that with lots of prayer, Zambia can progress even against all odds. This is despite the fact the Ghanaians are more prayerful, in number, than Zambians.
Some players say they can deliver the result Zambia’s fans desire. Would you blame the fans if they take the latest players’ assurances with a handful of salt considering that we have heard these pledges before?
In fact, this pledge was made as recent as last week when the word was that there is no way Sudan would beat Zambia. Indeed Sudan did not beat Zambia but the Chipolopolo lost two points.
Tens of thousands of fans converged on Levy Mwanawasa Stadium expecting another great feast a week after the Chipolopolo thrashed Lesotho 4-0, forgetting momentarily how the team can be inconsistent with its results.
One moment the performance is great, and the next their act makes you wish your energies and resources were spent more on another sport like nsolo.
The Sudanese taught the Zambians the art of frustrating opponents. They did it so well that you would wish Zambia could replicate it against the Ghanaians.
You, however, don’t lose hope even if it is a micro-thread you are hanging on to, after all the Chipolopolo are so consistently inconsistent that from the extreme of failing to beat a reconstituted Sudanese side, they just could pull off another surprise by dimming the Black Stars.
There are only 80 days in which to prepare for this tall order.
There is much debate in the country about the return of Andre and Jordan Ayew to the Black Stars but do they deserve automatic places in the team?
The Marseille duo retired from the national team after the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations for various reasons which divided opinion in the country over their reasons for leaving.
Andre said he was leaving because he had problems with management while Jordan said he will only return if his position guaranteed in the Black Stars.
But Andre and Jordan Ayew rescinded their decisions after talks with President John Mahama at the Flagstaff House last week.
Now coach Kwesi Appiah has intimated that the announcements by the trio do not mean they will automatically be invited to the team.
In the absence of the Ayews the Black Stars have done really well with players stepping up to the plate to deliver for the country. They are currently top of the qualifying group without the Ayews.
But some are of the view that the return of the Ayew will further boost the already strong squad and that they must be automatically invited to the team.
Do you think the Ayew must be invited to the Black Stars automatically? Do you think both of them deserve an automatic place? Do you think they must fight like the others to gain a place in the team? Make your views known in the box below:
Zambia President Rupiah Banda says the Chipolopolo will upset the tables by beating Ghana in Kumasi in September to qualify for the 2014 Brazil World Cup play-offs.
The leader of the Southern African country was forced to make the statement following the disappointing 1-1 draw against Sudan over the weekend that left the side reeling after Ghana crashed Lesotho to go top of the Group D qualifiers.
Banda, a former FAZ vice-president who also led a supporters band and is chairman of Chiparamba Youth Soccer Academy, has encouraged Chipolopolo to remain steadfast despite surrendering the top slot after the weekend qualifiers.
A statement by Kennedy Limwanya, the deputy administrative assistant, states that the former Head of State is confident and wants the team not to be discouraged by their draw against Sudan but focus on the September clash against Ghana.
Banda said states that with the right attitude and preparations, the Chipolopolo can achieve the seemingly impossible feat of defeating Ghana in front of their fans in Kumasi.
A staunch soccer fan of many years, former president Banda says despite surrendering the top spot in Group D to 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana, the Herve Renard-coached side should remain positive to eventually prevail over the Black Stars and secure qualification to the last stage of the qualifiers.
“It’s beyond dispute that things look difficult for our national team. After being held to a draw by Sudan last Saturday, Ghana made it worse when, not unexpectedly, they beat Lesotho in Maseru to supplant us from the top position. But this should, by no means, discourage our team,” says President Banda, a former Football Association of Zambia vice-president.
Banda, however, believes that although the pressure in the September fixture against Ghana would appear to be on Zambia, the hosts would not have it easier either, as they would be playing in front of expectant fans.
This, President Banda adds, might turn things into Zambia’s favour if the Chipolopolo adopt the winning mentality that helped them win the 2012 African Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon which he was privileged to attend.