HUGE photographs of Michael Essien and Dominic Adiyiah were the major attractions at the Ghana Pavilion when the World Exposition in Shanghai, China, dubbed World Expo Shanghai 2010, opened last weekend.
The Ghanaian authorities at the half-year long Expo which opened last Saturday decided to use the two footballers to sell the nation, and it appeared to have started well on the first day of the opening of the exhibition at the magnificent Expo grounds located along the Huangpu River in the Chinese financial capital of Shanghai.
Hundreds of people, most of them the youth, stood close to the photographs of the two players to take pictures for their albums.
Essien appears to be a household name in China even though Chinese are not so obsessed with football.
To some of the hundreds who went to the Ghana pavilion, Essien was one of the best things to happen to Ghana because it was through the footballer that they got to hear of the name Ghana.
Mr Ben Heh, a Deputy Director of Ghana’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, who was in charge of the Ghana pavilion, told me that the decision to use the two players was carefully thought out.
“Essien is a super star whose image if well harnessed, can tell positively on the nation’s development,” he said.
On Adiyiah, Mr Heh said the young player just emerged the best youth player in the world after that stupendous performance in the World Youth Championship in Egypt, and it was necessary to tap his popularity to the nation’s advantage.
One young Chinese of about 20 years said of Adiyiah that, “I wish he played his football in China.”
Another nation that is using its footballers to sell itself at the Expo is Cameroun. The country’s representatives at the Expo have placed pictures of Samuel Eto’o and other great players from the country at their pavilion, which also attracted people at the Expo.