Essien: Black Princesses will come back stronger

Published on: 15 August 2018

Ghana failed to make the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018, the fifth time in five attempts that the Black Princesses have fallen short of the last eight. Beaten by France and the Netherlands in the group phase, they salvaged some pride by overcoming New Zealand in their final match, a win that allowed them to leave France with heads held high and some happy memories.

Another high point of the African side’s stay at France 2018 was an encounter with fellow countryman and football legend Michael Essien. 'The Bison', as he was known during his playing days and who starred in the French league for Bastia and Lyon, has been spending some time in Brittany, taking the opportunity to visit the Black Princesses and share his FIFA U-20 World Cup memories with What brings you to Brittany?

Michael Essien: I was invited and I had no hesitation in accepting. It’s a pleasure and an honour for me to be here. I came to enjoy this great celebration of women’s football and I’m delighted that Ghana have been able to play a part in it.

Do you follow women’s football?

Yes, it’s getting more and more interesting every year. I was in Miami a few days ago and I watched Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain’s matches in the Women’s International Champions Cup. The level was excellent and it was very entertaining. I really enjoyed it.

You’re now in Brittany watching the U-20 Women’s World Cup, having taken part in an U-20 world finals yourself back in 2001.

I have great memories of that tournament. We had a superb run to the final, where the hosts, Argentina, beat us to the title. The experience will stay with me forever, though, especially as that was where I scored the one and only World Cup goal of my career, against Paraguay in our opening match. I also remember our win over Kaka’s Brazil in the quarter-finals. We scored the winner in the very last minute. Matches like that stay with you.

What does taking part in a competition like this mean to players?

An awful lot. It’s a springboard for their careers because when you play the best in your age group it’s a chance for you to progress and to get yourself noticed. It’s a huge opportunity and you have to make the most of it and then keep riding the wave all the way to the highest level.

You met up with the Blacks Princesses. Tell us about it.

I met them just before their opening match against France and it was great to talk to them. They’re great players and I could see that the atmosphere in the squad is really good. I’m only sorry I couldn’t bring them any luck in the competition.

What’s your view on their performance at France 2018?

They’ve got their whole future ahead of them. They can be proud of themselves because they fought right till the end. They didn’t have an easy group and I’m happy that they left France on a winning note. They’ll come back stronger, and why not next year for the Women’s World Cup?