The Black Stars 10: No 3, Andre Ayew – A leader from scratch
‘The Black Stars 10’ series will give the reader an idea of the greatest players to illuminate the Ghana national team in the past 20 years.
You might disagree with some of the picks, and most likely wouldn’t also agree with the order, but the aim is to ensure you enjoy the stories. You can read more about the introduction to the series here.
Before the start of this season, Jordan Ayew addressed the Ghanaian media answering questions about his achievements and ambitions for the new season.
One thing he said struck a chord, perhaps a feeling that he shares with his bigger brother Andre Ayew.
Jordan said: “To be an Ayew comes with a lot of pressure but pressure is a good thing and it pushes you to do more.”
Andre, being the older brother, certainly understands Jordan’s assertions and has always embraced the pressure of being the son of a legend.
From the onset, the similarities between Andre and his father were evident. Bald, left footed and the willingness to take on opponents meant that the Andre had big boots to fill.
In 2007, Ghana faced Senegal in an international friendly in South East London as Claude Le Roy was preparing the Black Stars for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) the following year. The match ended 1-1 but it was a moment of savouring for Andre Ayew.
It was right on the 90th minute when Le Roy decided to make a double change. One of them was Ahmed Barusso coming off for Ayew.
The game was already decided at that point, and Ayew barely touched the ball, but the moment touched the heart of the player and his father. By virtue of being subbed on, Ayew at 17 years 246 days became the 14th youngest player to make his debut for Ghana. In fifth place is his father, Abedi Ayew who made his debut at 17 years 119 days old.
Most often, 90th minute substitutions paint a picture of a fringe player who was most likely brought on to gather experience. At that moment when Ayew came on, that was the case for the young player.
However, five months later, Ayew found himself in the Ghana squad for the 2008 AFCON. A decision that raised the eyebrows of many considering the inexperience of the winger.
Le Roy didn’t mind as Ayew was given over 130 minutes during the tournament which saw Ghana finish third.
In the semi-final against Cameroon, Ayew was waiting in the tunnel for the last player in the Ghana team to file out so he becomes the last player to come out. Now here’s the background; it is common practice for key players to be the last player to step out of the tunnel when a team files out.
Although Muntari directed Ayew to step out before him, the mentality of the 17-year-old was highlighted. His natural affinity to lead could not be hidden as he was visibly seen encouraging team mates on the field and dishing out instructions.
“He is my leader and commander on the pitch,” Sellas Tetteh said of Ayew to FIFA.com. “He has a lot of experience and has the ability to conjure up something special when you need it most. He’s inspirational. He pushes the team forward.”
During the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, the immense potential of the versatile youngster known as Dede was truly revealed to the world. Named captain by coach Tetteh, Ayew filled the roles of workhorse, creator and leader for the Black Satellites as they became the first African side to win the tournament after beating four-time champions Brazil on penalties
Ayew’s determination and fighting spirit was once again highlighted as he played through injury against Brazil. He spurred his team on when they were reduced to 10 men in the first half, and converted one of the penalties in the shootout.
But that story about Ayew’s influence in that u-20 final will be reserved for another day. Today, the focus remains on his impact with the senior side.
In 2010, Milovan Rajevac called upon a very young side for the AFCON in Egypt. The average age of the team was 24 years as Ayew prominently featured in the tournament which saw Ghana miss out on key player such as Michael Essien and Laryea Kingston.
It was a breakthrough tournament for Ayew as he inspired a young Ghana team to the final only to lose to African giants Egypt.
It was Ayew’s well-taken header against Burkina Faso that sent the Black Stars into the knockout phase of the tournament, coincidentally, that was his first goal for the senior side.
After the final, Ayew explained: “I have already learned a lot from being around the senior guys. They know what it’s like to be a top professional, so as a youngster it makes sense to learn as much as I can from them.”
Well, Ayew learned and learned pretty fast as in just nine years, he became Ghana’s all-time leading scorer at the AFCON with nine goals.
Currently, he is the captain of the senior side, realising a long-term dream he had when he was subbed on against Senegal in 2007.
With 90 appearances, Ayew sits second behind Asamoah Gyan who has 109 appearances in Ghana’s all-time highest appearance list.
Ayew’s brace against Qatar earlier in 2020 means that he is Ghana’s 10th all-time topscorer with 17 goals.
To be an Ayew comes with pressure but pressure has been a good thing for Andre Ayew. So far, he has been great, but his quest to become the greatest will depend on what he achieves as captain of the senior side.