Ghana’s Essien Top Soccer Star

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Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien, who plays for Chelsea in the English Premiership, has been voted BBC best African footballer of the year, 2006.

The election took place last Friday January during an hour-long live broadcast of the sports programme, Fast Track on BBC world service. The 24-year-old received 66 per cent of the more than 12.000votes ahead of Egypt's international, Mohamed Aboutrika in the second position and his Chelsea team-mate, Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast who came third.

Essien paid tribute to his rivals; Drogba and Aboutrika, saying "They are really good players and deserve to win the award but there can be only one winner and I am happy to be that winner," Essien told BBC Sport on Monday. He also expressed gratitude to fans for the confidence placed in him through this award. "The award is a good confidence booster for me and I hope it can spur me on to win more laurels for my club and country," he said.

Essien, who is among the three nominees for the CAF African footballer of the year award, has been in outstanding form for his club this season. He helped the Black Stars of Ghana, reach the second round of the World Cup in Germany.
Previous winners of the BBC African Footballer of Year award include Senegal's El-Hadji Diouf (2002) and Sammy Kuffour of Ghana (2001).

Nigeria's Jay Jay Okocha won the award twice in 2003 and 2004 with Egypt's Mohamed Barakat taking the 2005 award.

(Cameroon Tribune, Yaoundé)

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