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Keeping it in the family

Piers Edwards | 18:00 UK time, Sunday, 18 December 2011

Andre "Dede" Ayew's grandfather did not play football but the odds are he might have been pretty handy had he done so.

For three of his sons all played internationally for Ghana, including Abedi "Pele" Ayew, a man widely recognised as one of the greats of African football.

Amazingly, Abedi himself has repeated the feat, with his three sons - Rahim, Dede and the youngest Jordan - all having represented the Black Stars as well.

In fact, should Jordan, a club colleague of Dede's at Marseille, contest next month's Africa Cup of Nations finals, all three of Abedi's sons will have played at the tournament.

Three Black Stars past and present - current Marseille duo Jordan Ayew (left) and Andre "Dede" Ayew, with his trophy, and African footballing great, Abedi 'Pele' Ayew

It's an impressive achievement to say the least - and history repeated itself once more on Friday when Dede won the BBC African Footballer of the Year award, 20 years after his dad won the inaugural accolade.

Back in 1991, the African influence on European football was a very different affair - and hard though it may be to believe now, there were just two African internationals playing in England's top-flight. (Or at least, I think it was only two - any advances on that tally?)

Among those leading the charge for the continent was Abedi Pele, a winger who had already hit the headlines back home after winning the 1982 Nations Cup as a 17-year-old.

Before joining Italians Torino for a successful spell, Abedi was a lynchpin of the Marseille side that won the club's sole European Cup (even if the 1993 triumph will forever be tainted in controversy given the match-fixing affair that followed).

The captain of that team was one Didier Deschamps, who now finds himself not only managing Abedi's son at Marseille - but also incredibly grateful for the 22-year-old's recent exploits.

Earlier this month, Marseille were 2-1 down at Borussia Dortmund and exiting the Champions League until the Black Star thumped home a header with five minutes to go - sparking a famous fightback that saw the French side win 3-2 and squeeze into the knock-out stages.

It was Dede's 12th goal in 22 games this season, confirming the winger's dramatic improvement as a goalscorer - a facet of his game that used to be weak.

An excellent header of the ball, despite standing just 5ft 9in, Ayew has fine ball control and dribbling skills but arguably his greatest asset is his seemingly insatiable appetite for hard work - the legacy of paternal advice.

"Of all my dad's advice, 'patience' and 'hard work' are the words that really stayed," Dede said on receiving his award.

"My dad was always telling me to be patient and to work hard and that's what I tried to do - to calm my nerves when things were difficult. And those are the words that led me to be who I am today, even though there's a lot more to prove."

Dede's difficult times came in the early years of his career when a sceptical public was convinced that he was trading off his dad's legend - as they were when he appeared as an 18-year-old at the 2008 Nations Cup.

And while many fans doubted his quality, Dede himself was well aware of how difficult it would be to make it as a footballer in his own right given his father's standing.

"It's difficult to say that being the son of a legend is a help - perhaps it's the other way round - but it is something that pushes you on," he says. "People always try to compare but luckily for me, my dad has seen a lot of things in his life and can advise very well.

"It's good for me to get all that advice and become a better player, because I can learn from him, but there was also a difficult part - which I think is now behind me - when people were expecting that I would do like him or be better than him, which was complicated.

"Today, bit by bit, I am moving away from that and proving that I can fight to be the best - that's my big honour."

Abedi Pele (right) was a key figure in Marseille's 1993 European Cup success

Dede did actually start out under his dad at Ghanaian club FC Nania, which Abedi runs, before the latter's connections with Marseille certainly worked for his son as the then 15-year-old joined the club in 2005.

He made his debut two years later but was then loaned out for two seasons - first to Lorient and then to second-division side Arles-Avignon, the team he was playing for when he started to grace the international stage with real purpose.

In October 2009, Dede was an inspirational captain as Ghana's Black Satellites became the first African team to win Fifa's Under-20 World Cup - three months later, he then shone for the Black Stars themselves as they reached the 2010 Nations Cup final.

Later in the year, the youngster took to the field in the World Cup - starting every game until suspension ruled him out of the Uruguay clash, but doing enough in his four games to be nominated for the Best Young Player shortlist.

When the BBC first interviewed Dede in 2005, the 15-year-old outlined his simple desire to follow in his father's sizeable footballing footsteps - but playing in the World Cup was something Abedi never achieved.

And Dede is keen to ensure that he achieves even more.

"I want to win a World Cup," he says plainly, when asked to name his greatest ambition. "Because an African team that wins the World Cup will not just be winning it for their country but for the whole continent."

Whether that comes to pass or not, Dede - who has been constantly linked with Arsenal over the years but who renewed his Marseille contract on Sunday - is still young enough and progressing so well that he may have many other medals by the time he hangs up his boots.

And should all go to plan for him, perhaps people might catch sight of Abedi Pele in future and say: "Look, there's Dede Ayew's dad."


  • Comment number 1.

    First? Thats a first!

  • Comment number 2.

    If he was 15 years old in 1995, how is he only 22 now?

  • Comment number 3.

    Good spot Lokacious - I had already changed this but it's taking a while to go through. It should of course be 2005, not 1995...

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Would you say that andre ayew really deserves the african player of the year accolade? He is a great player but i thought that that award would have been given to ryan or boating who has been great for milan

  • Comment number 6.

    I think my moderated comment about the popularity of African football was correct. Shown by the number of comments on this subject

  • Comment number 7.

    Boatang, is a lot % German. He played for for Ghana for what?? 1 year? I think he's retired already. No world cup for a few years, no band wagon to jump on. He's a great footballer, and getting better and better but from what I can see, he's not showing much love for africa. Maybe i'm wrong? I wish liverpool had bagged him for 4m or whatever he went to Milan for? Along with Bel Haj, who also left Pompey for very little. I just don't think Africa should salute a guy that won't play for his national team.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think Dede has worked had this year and he deserves it

  • Comment number 9.

    Well written article. I was a massive fan of Abedi Pele and so happy Andre is doing so well. His lack of killer instinct was always a worry but glad to read that he's putting that right. With him, Frimpong fom Arsenal, Inkoom and the host of other young Black Satellites coming through, I'm hoping for big things for the Black Stars!

  • Comment number 10.

    Can anyone explain the continued overlooking of Samuel Eto'o for this award?

  • Comment number 11.

    At 16:47 19th Dec 2011, nyhotspur wrote:
    Can anyone explain the continued overlooking of Samuel Eto'o for this award?


    Good point nyhotspur, what about Yaya Toure aswell, he's been one of the top performers in the EPL this year.

  • Comment number 12.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 13.

    I think Dede is well on his way to achieving great things in the game, and I must say Ghana are lucky to have him. The guy's desire for greatness is unmatched by any young African talent in the game today - his greatest strength.

    But is he deserving of the award this year? I think not. Yaya Toure, Gervinho, Moussa Sow and Samuel Eto'o did so much more.

    Which only reinforces my skepticism about fan votes. They are mere popularity contests, and the man with the biggest voting block wins. How else can you explain why Samuel Eto'o - arguably Africa's greatest player ever has never won the BBC African Player of the Year award?

    Any other African player who scored 37 goals in a season would have been a mini-god.

    Perhaps we no longer think of Eto'o as human like the rest.

    All the same congrats to Dede. I'm a big fan.

  • Comment number 14.


    I take it the comment, regrded a lack of interest in the posts due to the subject of African football.

    African football has the players, the fans, all that is needed to make it successful world wide. What it lacks is the money.

    Money equals glamour for most which equals media attention. Very sad because Africa has so much to offer.

  • Comment number 15.

    Congratulations Ayew Dede for your hard work for you have gone further than father hope all will be fine with you

  • Comment number 16.

    After watching young Ayew play several games you get to understand why he won the award. His work rate and attitude is unbelievable plus he ain't a bad player. Are there other greater African players? Ofcourse but for me, given how he has developed quickly n getting out of his father's shadow makes him among the best.
    Eto'o is an amazingly talented player but to get the award with his 15 match ban?????

  • Comment number 17.

    Well, I think Dede has worked has this year and I'm a big fan of his nonetheless the BBC award wasn't a true representation of the best player in Africa.

  • Comment number 18.

    Ayew is undoubtedly a top quality player and deserves the accolade in my opinion. Only seen him play a couple of times. (I know that he's damn awesome on Fifa 12 though).

    The article states that there are 3 brothers; where Andre and Jordan are at Marseille. What of the other brother, Rahim?

  • Comment number 19.

    At 15:04 19th Dec 2011, gooner8 wrote:
    Would you say that andre ayew really deserves the african player of the year accolade? He is a great player but i thought that that award would have been given to ryan or boating who has been great for milan


    Couldn't agree more sir. Ryan, the gifted Zaire half-back, has put in many fine displays this last year. Who could forget his acrobatic hitch-kick scissor overhead volley against Chad or his memorable jinking run in the Madegascar game that lead to Gavin's crucial goal.......

    My vote however, as world-class as the quite brilliant Ryan has been, goes to Seydou Doumbia of CSKA Moscow

  • Comment number 20.

    Nice to see a blog on African football outside of the ANC. I personally think Ayew is deserving of the prize, reminds me of C Ronaldo in the way he has honed his raw talent and gradually become a brilliant player. Hard work is a great message to younger players here, even if it could be argued the likes of Et'oo and Doumbia have done more (i.e. scored more goals). I would love to see Ayew join Arsenal as we need a dynamic left-winger with the quality to score and assist - these are few and far between! Alas, I fear our hesitation in the summer means we are destined to miss out on this great talent. If he carries on in this form and continues to impress in the Champions League, I can see a move to Serie A or La Liga. Well done, Dede!

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi WelshWingWizard11 - the other brother, Ibrahim, is currently playing in Belgium for Lierse. He made the 2010 Nations Cup squad but has dropped out of contention for next month's finals.

    As for whether Dede deserves the award, well it's voted for by the fans - so it's up to them. That said, I thought that this year's likely winner was going to be Yaya Toure given his performances for City. The Confederation of African Football stages its award on Thursday night, so it'll be interesting to see who picks up their Footballer of the Year honour - with 'Dede' Ayew and Toure being joined by Eto'o, Seydou Keita and Senegal's Moussa Sow for the prize.

    No one picked up on the number of Africans in the English top flight in 1991 - I think there were only Peter Ndlovu and Bruce Grobbelaar (both Zimbabwe) - any improvements on that?

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi Piers,
    good article.
    Surely : Mark Fish at Charlton?
    Roy Wegerle was in the First Division that season.

  • Comment number 23.

    Efan Ekoku? Norwich City then Wimbeldon.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ 22

    Mark Fish was with Bolton in 97, think he's asking African players in 91/92 season.

    I can't think of anyone else!

  • Comment number 25.

    Yaya Toure i would have thought, goals in the semi and the final of the FA cup topped off a great season for him.

    As its voted by the fans then fair play on who they decide, better than a load of pundits/officials/execs who pick a team of the year and player and usually get it very wrong.

  • Comment number 26.

    Phil Masinga, Lucas Radebe, Nii Lamptey, Efan Ekoku and Tony Yeboah were there in the early 90's, but possibly a bit later than 1991. I'm sure there was another boy at Coventry, surname started with an N but I can't quite remember it. Pre Championship Manager (93/94 I think) my knowledge isn't too great!

  • Comment number 27.

    Yaya or etoo have to be the two to think about for winners I'd imagine, though moussa sow can be a longshot.

    Though I'm a bit confused why fans get to decide? Surely it's better to have managers / sports writers to decide? Otherwise what stops the bandwagon from rolling on? Or simply the biggest country (population) all vote for one person?

  • Comment number 28.

    Nwankwo Kanu.............

    was he around then???

  • Comment number 29.

    @ 26

    radebe and masinga were 93 I think, yeboah was 95? Lamptey was 94. What a guy lamptey was as well, labelled as "the next pele" by pele himself!!

  • Comment number 30.

    @26 Ross C

    Leeds fan any chance?? remember the game where Phil Masinga went in goal??!!

  • Comment number 31.

    @ 28

    Kanu was in Nigeria still, he signed for Arsenal in 99. remember cos he scored against us pretty much on his debut!

  • Comment number 32.

    Peter Ndlovu.

    I'm sure my boss wishes I put this much effort into the job I'm meant to be doing right now!

  • Comment number 33.


    Not at all, just lost far too many hours of my early teenage years to Championship Manager!

  • Comment number 34.

    I think I'm doing ok with two then! Roy Wegerle is a good shout and would normally squeeze in, but he played internationally for the United States in the end. The same applies for John Fashanu as he played for England despite his African roots. Re. Efan Ekoku, he was with Bournemouth then and, as Edouard Streltsov says, Mark Fish wasn't in England in the early 1990s but still in South Africa... All in all, it just goes to show the massive contrast with today.

  • Comment number 35.

    @ 34

    Yeah Piers you are spot on. Sad as I am I decided to look on wikipedia as a source of knowledge. Didn't realise that Ekoku was at Bournemouth until I looked it up, plus he was born in England so does that strictly count?
    Here's a list. It shows just how multicultural the premier league has become!

  • Comment number 36.

    For those of you complaining that the amazing Eto hasn't won this award. I hereby announce that he is the winner of the African player of the year according to me award. I mean lets be honest it has about as much credibility as the BBC award!

    An absolute non story (however with that said I am eagerly awaiting the results of the BBC Armenian under 21 player of the year award!)

  • Comment number 37.

    Thanks for clearing that up Piers!

    Why has Adebayor not made the list for the award staged by Confederation of African Football, I wonder? He has been in fine form for Spurs and was not at all bad at Madrid. He is certainly one of the top African players.

    Maybe this is to do with the fact that he has (more than understandably) abstained from participating with Togo at international level. Do you think this would affect the nominations procedure?

  • Comment number 38.

    @ 36

    Edgar Malakyan is my pick for the BBC Amernian under 21 player of the year award! ;)

  • Comment number 39.


    well for one its voted by the fans and as far as im aware i cant imagine he is a 'fans favouraite ' :)

  • Comment number 40.

    This list agrees with the two Zimbabweans theory.

    There are a lot of Premier League legends from Africa though, Yeboah, Radebe, Okocha, Kanu, Drogba, a few more too I'm sure.

  • Comment number 41.

    Not to mention George Weah........

    Arguably the finest African import, although I admit he didn't shine that much in a Chelski shirt.

  • Comment number 42.

    1. yaya is as important to city as dede is important(if not more) to marseile 2. Both are midfielders, but dede has scored more goals, both in europe and the domestic league. 3. Both play significant roles in their respective national teams but have won nothing with national teams esp in 2011 4. yaya scored for city in the fa cup final to win the fa cup...dede scored a hatrick in the final to win the french cup. 5. dede with marseile are in the CL last 16 with dede contributing significantly to that are out. now tell me who deserves it most!!

  • Comment number 43.

    Discipline, dedication, patience and hard work are their mantras. Congratulations to the Ayew brothers Rahim, Dede and Jordan. The three sons are keeping the Ayew flag flying. Lovely, real and true story. Nice blog by Piers Edwards.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho


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