The highest honor for any athlete is to showcase his talents on the world stage. The World Cup, organized by the Federation Internationale de Football Association, is the single biggest of any sports showcase in the world. For a soccer player, the ultimate dream is to play in the FIFA World Cup. The best soccer players in the world meet in this event every four years to represent their countries and to compete for the highest honors in soccer.
As in the rest of the world, soccer has a huge following in Africa. All across Africa, children can be seen playing football – as soccer is called in Africa – with makeshift balls on the streets and any open spaces they can find. It is no different in Ghana, where Abedi Ayew grew up.
Abedi Ayew was remarkable on the football field. Born on November 5, 1964 in Accra, Ghana, Abedi was playing for the Black Stars, the Ghanaian national team, at the age of 17. That year, 1982, the Black Stars won the Africa Cup of Nations, Africa's most prestigious football fiesta and the young man was catapulted to almost immediate stardom.
The lure to join international ranks as a professional saw Abedi leave his native country and join the Saad Club in Qatar, a small country in the Persian Gulf, and in 1983 led the club to victory in the Qatar National Championships. As a young player, Abedi had established himself as a top-of-the-line football player, so much so that he was nicknamed "Pele" after the legendary Brazilian football player, who at 17 took his country to the 1958 World Cup and won, and is considered by many as the best football player that has ever lived.
Abedi Pele regularly returned to Ghana to play for the Black Stars in international football fixtures and by 1990 was the team's captain. He led them in through the qualifying matches for the 1990 FIFA World Cup and only needed to beat the Cameroonian national side, the Indomitable Lions, to clinch a spot on the biggest soccer stage in the world. In the two preceding qualifying matches, Abedi had received two yellow cards or warnings for rough play and, according to football rules, had to sit out this final match. The hotly contested match ended in a tie after regulation time and Abedi watched his team lose on penalty shootout, and a chance to play in Italy, the host country of the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
European football clubs noticed Abedi's outstanding playing ability and many of these clubs romanced him to play for them. He settled for France and thus started his nomadic career, playing for several different clubs in the French League. His most noticeable stay being with Olympique de Marseilles where his attacking flair on the football pitch enabled the club reach the top of the French league in the years 1991 to 1993. Abedi's lethal striking force on the field enabled Olympique take the Euro Cup Championships in 1993, making them the first French football club ever to win these Championships that determine the top football club in Europe.
Following these exploits in France, Abedi won the African Player of the Year award, the highest honor a football player can be awarded in Africa. He was presented with this award for three years running, from 1991 to 1993, making him the only player to have ever won this coveted award three times consecutively. This undoubtedly placed him among the very finest players in the world, but he had yet to prove his finesse on the world stage.
Ghana was again unable to qualify for the 1994 World Cup games held in the United States, denying Abedi yet another chance to prove that he was as good a player as the best in the world. This, however, did not deter Abedi from continuing to show that he was unstoppable on the football field. His nomadic career led him to play in Italy, Germany and the United Arab Emirates.
Abedi ‘Pele' Ayew retired from the football scene soon after the Black Stars were again unable to qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup held in France. At his retirement he was bestowed the highest honor in Ghana, the Order of Volta, in recognition of his pioneering efforts in elevating African football. He currently owns a football club in Ghana where he trains young football players to excel at playing the game.
Abedi ‘Pele' Ayew's outstanding prowess on the football pitch gave him legendary status in Africa but he was never able to present his talents on the world stage, the FIFA World Cup. Seven years after his retirement, Abedi celebrated with Ghanaian national side after they qualified for first time ever for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.