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MTN scores big with Michael Essien

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MTN kicked off its role as a global sponsor of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals by scoring a public relations coup: it signed up Ghana captain and Chelsea midfield playmaker Michael Essien as its ‚2010 Associate‚ ‚ days before his dramatic comeback. Die-hard football fan ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK reports on the significance ‚ and impeccable timing ‚ of the announcement.

When Michael Essien scored a goal for Chelsea against Juventus in the European Champions League two weeks ago, the cheers could be heard all the way to MTN’s Johannesburg headquarters in 14th Avenue, Roodepoort, in the west of the city.

Barely a week earlier, MTN had clinched a deal for Essien to be the mobile network operator’s 2010 ambassador, or ‚MTN 2010 Associate‚ . The cheers were not only for the goal: at the time the deal was signed, Essien had not played a first team game since last September, and his comeback was still in doubt.

But when it came a week later, the player nicknamed ‚The Train‚ ‚ fans believe he is unstoppable ‚ made an immediate impact, scoring the goal against Juventus that put Chelsea on the path to advancing to the quarter finals.

For MTN, that meant a huge ‚ but carefully calculated ‚ gamble had paid off almost instantly. In the build-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup taking place in South Africa from 11 June next year, Essien’s profile is expected only to grow.

Michael Essien scores for Chelsea in his comeback game against Juventus

Essien has declared that he will up his game ‚to show my Africa to the world, come 2010‚ .

‚I, too, am an African,‚ he said. ‚Although I play football in the world’s most competitive league, my heart is in Africa. Like millions of others from Cape to Cairo, I can’t wait to be part of the 2010 action.

Essien said his role as part of the MTN 2010 FIFA World Cup team would be to communicate the message of Africa’s ability to deliver a spectacular event. But it would also bring the cream of African soccer back to Africa.

‚I am among a few from Africa who have made it on the international football scene,‚ he explained. ‚Yet, very few people from this continent get the opportunity to watch us perform. Therefore, the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa will be a rare platform for ordinary people to witness the world’s most talented players on the soccer pitch doing extraordinary things.‚

Essien said he was looking forward to witnessing history being made as ordinary people take advantage of the unparalleled economic opportunity that the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa will bring.

Other reasons given by Essien for his excitement about 2010 are:

For Irvin Khoza, chairman of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee, the choice was obvious.

‚Michael Essien is the embodiment of a complete footballer,‚ he said. ‚There can be no better face to promote African football and Africa’s first FIFA World Cup across MTN’s vast network on the African continent. Michael is well-endowed with tremendous football skills and is also well-mannered and a perfect ambassador for African football.‚

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