Ghana celebrates the greatest name that comes to mind when one talks about footballers from Ghana.
Abedi Pele is one of the great pioneers of African football in Europe. One of the first great African players to make an impact on European club football,he played for teams in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and most famously France where he helped Marseille win the 1993 UEFA Champion’s League.
He was a fixture in the African Championships of the 1980s and 90s with Ghana, though the Black Stars never managed to reach the FIFA World Cup. He has since become one of the continent’s most respected and important ambassadors. Abedi Pelé is a member of FIFA’s Football Committee.
As a 17-year old he had helped Ghana win the Nations Cup in 1982 but his efforts to lead the team to a similar triumph as captain in the 90’s were of no luck. 1992, when they reached the finals, he was suspended because of two yellow cards and had to watch his team losing on penalties.
Abedi holds the CAF Cup as the player who has been at the Nations Cup Finals more than any other on the continent, beating even the legendary Roger Milla of Cameroon to the record. He made his first appearance at the 13th Nations Cup Finals in Libya in 1982 and for the next 16 years (ending at the 21st Finals in Burkina) continued to grace the most prestigious football fiesta on the continent, first as a member of Ghana’s squad rising to become captain in 1990, as captain.
Abedi’s brilliant exploits on the field took him to France, Italy, Germany and the Middle East, where he attracted millions of fans. He was very instrumental in Olympic Marseilles winning the European Club Championship trophy in 1993, the first time a French team won it.
Abedi Pele left Ghana after the `82 African Cup to Qatar. He had a short spell with F.C. Zurich in Swiss. He returned to Ghana and after both Kotoko and Hearts failed to signed him he joined Dragons of Benin for a short spell. He finally returned to Ghana and played for RTU for a season. He left to start his career in France with Chamois Noirt, then Montpellier, then Lille before he moved to Olympique Marsielle. He later joined Lyon, then Torino before finishing his European sojourn with 1860 Munich.
Pele has the singular honour of participating in more FIFA organized charity matches than any African player. He is currently on the player status committees of both FIFA and CAF.
Pele is adored in many African countries, especially the Francophone countries because of his exploits in France.
Nevertheless, in countries such as Nigeria and South Africa, football fans still wear T-shirts bearing his name. In fact, Abedi is indeed a goodwill soccer ambassador of Africa. That explains why the South African FA made him a Spokesperson for their 2006 World Cup bid.
In appreciation of Abedi’s devout services to the country, the Ghanaian government awarded him the country’s highest honour, the Order of the Volta (civil division). He thus becomes the first Ghanaian sportsman to be so honoured.
However, among his many awards, the one Abedi would like to forget is the European Cup medal he won with the French side Olympique de Marseilles which was later withdrawn by Uefa after Marseilles’ owner Bernard Tapie had been found guilty of cheating and other malpractices.
He was in June 2001 nominated by the present government of Ghana to serve as the next Chairman of the FA, an opportunity he later gave up for a more experienced former coach of Ghana for which in his own words said that this was to be an opportunity to learn from his superiors.
He at present owns a club with the future hopes of nurturing the young talent to augment the fledging league of the country.
Like father, like sons
Abedi has four children, three of whom have followed their father into football. Ibrahim Ayew plays for Gibraltarian club, Europa where he’s played four games this season. Andre Ayew currently plays for Swansea in the English Championship and has taken his father’s former role as captain of the Black Stars.
Jordan Ayew is Ghana’s first-choice striker at the moment and has scored four goals for his club side Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
JourneymanAbedi played for 12 different clubs across a very impressive career. Over the first decade, he played twice for Real Tamale United, Al Sadd, Zürich, Dragons l’Ouémé, Chamois Niortais, Mulhouse, Marseille and Lille.
He started off the next ten years of his career by returning to Marseille before playing for Lyon, Torino, 1860 Munich and Al Ain.
Winning’s my middle name
Abedi Pele was a serial winner in his career for both club and country. He won the French Division twice in 1991 and 1992 before crowning it off with the UEFA Champions League the next year.
While at Al Ain, Abedi Pele won the UAE Pro-League and the President’s Cup. Abedi enjoyed success with the Black Stars as well, winning the African Cup of Nations in 1982 and three straight WAFU titles, from 1982.
Abedi Ayew Pele became the first Ghanaian in 13 years to be named African Footballer of The Year when he won the prize in 1991. He then went on to win the award twice more in the next two years.
That same year, he was named the BBC African Footballer of The Year. The next year, Abedi picked up the Golden Ball at the African Cup of Nations before finishing ninth for the FIFA Player Of the Year Award.
552 all out
Abedi made about 552 appearances over the course of his two-decade-long career. He played a total of 479 games for his various club sides, making the most appearances for French club Marseille, where he played 112 games.
Can’t stop scoring
He scored 157 club goals with the 28 goals he netted for both RTU and Al Ain, the most he has scored for a single club.
For the national side, Abedi earned 73 caps and scored 33 goals
Happy birthday to the maestro and may God shower him with longlife.