Abedi Ayew known professionally as Abedi Pele is a Ghanaian former footballer who played as an attacking midfielder and who served as captain of the Ghana national team and celebrates his 54th birthday on Monday November 5th.
In 2015 when I reached the Maya-Maya international airport in Brazzaville I was met by Jean-Pierre a football connoisseur and the first Ghanaian player he mentioned was the Maestro Abedi Ayew Pele and after encountering many other football devotees in the central African I fully became aware of the overwhelming popularity of the former R.T.U attacking midfielder.
It was the summer of 2010 and I was in Abidjan to pass some time. I was surprised to see couple of people wearing some old version of Olympique Marseille and Ghana Black Stars jerseys with the name of Abedi Ayew written at the back and I could dare say Abedi is known in the Ivory Coast as much Didier Drogba and Youssouf Fofana are.
Just last year I attended the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and it is was there that Mr. Charles a Ghanaian who had lived in the Libreville for over 20 years working as a ship attendant recounted to me a humbling story of Abedi Pele. That after the 1992 African Cup of Nations in which Ghana lost on penalties to Ivory Coast , Abedi had come to Libreville to shoot a commercial for Air France and at the hotel were crowd of Ghanaians waiting to see their idol but the Hotel authorities and the Air France officials denied them access to their national icon.
But as the Ghanaians refused to leave the premises and started to make noise Abedi, who was in his room was informed of the incident and he quickly came downstairs to see his people. According to the story teller the Air France officials had maintained a very strong security around the Marseille star player but the Maestro insisted to see his people or he abandons the commercial shooting.
“At the hotel that day I remember asking Abedi what happened in the Nigeria semi-final game that the referee booked him that ruled him out of the final. And he (Abedi) could not hold back tears. We the Ghanaians in Gabon heard the news that Abedi has come to Gabon to shoot an advertisement and so we flooded the hotel to see our hero. This was right after the 92 AFCON ” Mr Charles recounted to me.
“They didn’t want us to see Abedi but he came out of his room to see us as he threatened to boycott the commercial assignment should they prevent him from seeing his own countrymen.” he explained.
The above are some of the personal experiences I have had across the continent and I could declare that no other Ghanaian player commands such respect and fame as Abedi Pele outside the confines of Ghana. His talent was unmatchable and players of his quality are rare.
Abedi is regarded as one of the greatest African footballers of all-time alongside George Weah, Samuel Eto, Didier Drogba, Raber Madger among others and finest ever footballer to come from Ghana.
He played for several European clubs and found his fame in the French Ligue 1 with Lille and Marseille, the latter where he won the UEFA Champions League in 1993, among other titles.
Three of his sons, Ibrahim, André and Jordan, have also become internationals for Ghana; Ibrahim and André were selected for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, while André and Jordan played at the 2014 World Cup. Andre captained the Ghana U-20 team to make history becoming the first African country to win the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Happy birthday Abedi Ayew Pele.