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Chelsea legend Michael Essien rapidly backtracked from a post in support of Ghanaian LGBT+ people after it saw him lose more than a million followers overnight.
The former midfielder, 38, has both French and Ghanian citizenship and still commands vast attention in the west African country, where he has played for the national team more than 50 times.
It was not what his Ghanian fanbase wanted to see, and he was quickly hit with a wave of backlash from his followers.
“You just lost your one follower, good luck, byee,” wrote one. “Delete else you will loose [sic] followers,” said another.
Essien’s popularity took a hit on Twitter too, where overnight his follower count reportedly went from 1.7 million followers to just over 688,000.
And as his followers peeled away, so too did Essien’s support for queer Ghanaians. By Wednesday (3 March), he had deleted the pro-LGBT+ post from Instagram.
PinkNews has reached out to Michael Essien for comment.
What’s happening in Ghana?
Ghanaian authorities have faced global condemnation after police forcibly closed the offices of LGBT+ Rights Ghana on February 24.
“A few days ago, traditional leaders threatened to burn down our office but the police did not help,” the organisation wrote on Twitter.
“At this moment, we no longer have access to our safe space and our safety is being threatened. We call on all human rights organisations, and allies, to speak out against these attacks and hate crimes we are being subjected to.”
The case prompted a surge of anti-LGBT+ sentiment in the country, which in turn cast a spotlight on the oppression of Ghana’s queer community.
Gay sex is illegal in Ghana, meaning any public show of support for LGBT+ rights can be met with violence and persecution.
Queer Ghanians have escaped being burned alive by vigilantes, robbed, abused and blackmailed by Grindr catfishers; the country’s chief imam has blamed the coronavirus on “transgender and lesbianism” and called LGBT+ people “demonic“.
As the international outcry grew louder, Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo only capitalised on the hatred by declaring that same-sex marriages will never be allowed under his leadership.