The news that Michael Essien’s wife, Akosua Puni, had purchased the Italian third division side Como at an auction certainly raised a few eyebrows this week.
She paid £206,000 to take control of the bankrupt club, facing no competition, and will try to lead the Lega Pro outfit back into the big time.
But those who have had the pleasure of visiting Como and the club’s Giuseppe Sinigaglia stadium will immediately understand the appeal.
‘Mrs Puni Essien and her team will soon be in our city to meet the fans and supporters of the club,’ a club statement read.
‘In the meantime, they intend to let you know that they are honoured to be here, in Como, and become part of a club which boasts 110 years of history.
‘The genuine promise and desire of the new owners are to grow and build both the first team and the youth sector, becoming an integral part of the fabric of this city.
‘The owners also pledge to create the conditions to bring FC Como into Serie B as soon as possible and to develop its talents to the best of their abilities.’
It’s fair to say that there have been more glorious episodes since Como’s foundation in 1907 and, indeed, the takeover by Mrs Essien comes as they have to change their name from Como Calcio to FC Como.
But once she arrives at the club’s 13,602-capacity venue, one look at its beautiful surroundings will surely fill her with optimism.
I visited the stadium in 2013, for the finals weekend of the NextGen Series, a Europe-wide under-18 tournament that inspired UEFA to create the Youth League, and the views from the main stand were stunning.
The ground is right next to Lake Como and the tranquil waters flow into a gorgeous backdrop of snow-capped peaks in the Rhaetian Alps.
Adjacent to the ground is a hangar for seaplanes that periodically buzz overhead, circle low and then come into land on the lake.
In winter, Como serves a gateway to the Alps for skiers who drive up from Milan, 25 miles to the south, and trace the narrow mountain roads through idyllic lakeside villages up to higher ground.
Essien, remember, played in midfield for Milan during the 2014-15 season, so the couple will know the region.
The city itself dates back to Roman times, with cobbled streets, Romanesque churches and an ornate cathedral that took 344 years to complete.
The combination of winter sports and a warm summer climate make Como a mecca for tourists all years round and, who knows, if the club become decent again, some might come specifically to watch them.
At the moment, Como sit seventh in Group A of the Lega Pro, with a small chance of making the play-offs for Serie B, the league they were relegated from amid the financial turmoil last season.
In fairness, Como have flitted between the second and third divisions for most of their existence, but they have enjoyed some brief time in Serie A during the 1950s, 1970s and then again in 2002-03.
Como never left the bottom two all season, though they were rarely embarrassed, and went immediately back to Serie B. To make matters worse, they were forced to play four matches away from their own ground after crowd trouble.
But that relegation was merely a taster of the disasters that were to follow as they fell down to the third division amid a backdrop of financial problems, eventually being declared bankrupt in December 2004.
Despite this, they were able to start again in Serie D for the 2005-06 season and slowly rebuilt on and off the pitch to return to the second division.
Last season saw the return of poor fortunes on the field and that, combined with a meagre average crowd of just 3,262 plunged them back into crisis.
Investment is certainly needed in the stadium facilities, which were looking a little shabby on my visit to say the least.
It will be hoped that an injection of cash from their new owner, who was Michael Essien’s publicist before they got married in 2013, will return them to the top.
Puni now is head of the Michael Essien Foundation, set up by the former Chelsea,
Milan and Real Madrid midfielder to help the poor in his native Ghana.
News of her purchase of Como came in the same week that Michael signed for the Indonesian club Persib Bandung, agreeing to a one-year contract.
Source: Mail Online