Sports profile: Abédi Pelé, a football legend
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Abédi Ayew, also known as Abédi "Pelé" (born November 5, 1964) is a former Ghana International football player and captain. He was named African Footballer of the Year in 1991, 1992 and 1993. Additionally, Pelé named him as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004. He is brother of Kwame Ayew and father of Andre Ayew.
Abédi Pelé was born into a family in a small village called Oko near Domé at the northern outskirts of Accra. He had his basic education at Dome Anglican Primary School.
He had to help his mother work at the Achimota Quarry and sometimes sell charcoal as well due to the family's poverty. Abédi was spotted while playing football for his school team and introduced to "colts" football in the city. He played for the Great Falcons youth club and won the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) 'Best Colts Player' award in 1978. That same year, he started his secondary education at the Ghana Secondary School, Tamale, on scholarship. He also started playing for his first senior team, Real Tamale United in the domestic league.
He left Ghana after the '82 African Cup for Qatar. After a short spell with F.C. Zurich in Switzerland he returned to Ghana but, after both Kotoko and Hearts of Oak failed to signed him, joined AS Dragons FC de l'Ouémé of Benin. He would later return to Ghana and play for Real Tamale United for a season. He started his European career in France with Chamois Niort, then Montpellier and Lille, before he moved to Olympique Marseille. He later joined Lyon.
He also played for Torino of Italy, where he won the Best Foreign Player in Serie A, before finishing his European sojourn with 1860 Munich.
Abédi Pelé went on to sign a 2 year contract with Al Ain FC in the United Arab Emirates and was nominated as one of the best foreign players to play in the UAE league.
He was the captain of Ghana's national soccer team for 6 years (1992-1998) and was one of the first African soccer players to finish highly in FIFA World Player of the Year lists in 1991 and 1992. He is arguably Africa's most decorated and honored soccer player ever, winning the France Football Magazine African player of the year award 3 times, the BBC sports person of the year twice, and the Confederation of African football version twice. He was also awarded the golden ball award for being the best player at the 1992 African Cup of Nations, and was the "man of the match" in Marseille's historic European Champions League final win over AC Milan in 1993.
Abédi Pelé played for Ghana 73 times and is considered the greatest football player in his country's history, and among the best in Africa. He is the top goal scorer for Ghana's Black Stars in its 50 year footballing history with 33 goals. He was a fixture in the African Championships of the 1980s and 90s with his national team, and a member of Ghana's victorious team in the 1982 African Cup of Nations, but he never had an opportunity to play in the FIFA World Cup, as the Black Stars failed to qualify for the competition during his career.
However, he was arguably the most dominant figure on the African soccer scene for nearly a decade. His performance in the 1992 African Cup of Nations is often cited as one of the most outstanding soccer displays by any player in a single tournament. His native Ghana reached the finals of the Cup that year, only to lose on penalties in the final to Ivory Coast after Abedi was suspended because of a Yellow card he received in the Semi-final match against Nigeria.
Prior to that, his 3 spectacular goals against Zambia, Congo and Nigeria proved crucial in putting Ghana through to their 7th appearance in a CAN final - and their first final in 10 years. The performance earned him the added nickname of "The African Maradona". His solo run goal against Congo in the quarter finals is often compared to Maradona's 1st against England in the 1986 world cup. His backheader goal against Nigeria from the edge of the opponent's penalty box also heralded international acclaim.
Abédi holds the record for most appearances at the Nations Cup Finals, 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 Faso) continued to grace the most prestigious football tournament on the continent, first as a member of Ghana's squad rising to become captain in 1991. Aside from his acclaimed exploits at the 1992 competition, Abedi also earned much acclaim for his 3 goals at the 1996 competition - where he lead Ghana to the semi finals of the competition despite critics expecting him to be in the twilight of his career.
At the club level, he was a key figure in Olympique de Marseille's dominance of the French league - resulting in 4 league championships and 2 European Champions League finals appearances. An attacking midfielder, Abédi became as famous for his sublime dribbling skills as well as a talent for scoring spectacular and often very important goals. Many such goals became regular "Goals of the Week" on ITN's weekly "European Football" program.
Ayew has the singular honour of participating in more FIFA organized charity matches than any other African player. He is very popular in many African countries, especially the French-speaking countries because of his exploits in France. In countries such as Nigeria and South Africa, football fans still wear T-shirts bearing his name. He has become one of the continent's most respected and important ambassadors. Abedi Pelé is a member of FIFA's Football Committee, and of the player status committees of both FIFA and CAF. 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.
On 29 January 1997, the first UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup All-Star Match between Europe and Africa was played in SL Benfica's Estádio da Luz in Lisbon Portugal and was televised in 100 countries worldwide, including 30 in Africa, for a 60 million audience. Former Olympique de Marseille midfielder Abedi Pelé was on target with a stunning goal early in the first half and, after Vincent Guérin had equalised for Europe just before half-time, it was the 1998 African Player of the Year, Mustapha Hadji, who struck Africa's 78th-minute winner in the 2-1 win.
CAF-UEFA All Star
At present he owns a second division club, called Nania FC, with the future hopes of nurturing the young talent to augment the fledging league of the country. He has also been involved with various Charity work across the Continent.
The allegations stem from an astonishing 31-0 victory recorded by his club, Nania FC over a much respected Okwawu United side. A similarly farcical 28-0 result was recorded in another second division match played between Great Mariners and Tudu Mighty Jets on the same weekend. The clubs involved in that Second Division Promotion Play-off Zone III match were also investigated and subject to the prospect of stiff penalties and demotions. Despite his vehement denials, Abedi had been chastised by some members of the Ghanaian media, who were demanding that strong punitive actions be taken against him, by Ghana's soccer governing body as well as the legal system.
He currently features in the EA Sports Fifa 07 video game as a star of their Classic eleven.
Honors and awards
* Flag of France French Ligue 1 with Olympique de Marseille Winner: 1988/1989, 1989/1990, 1990/1991, 1991/1992