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A look at the non-political Abedi Pele, one of Africa’s greatest soccer stars

PARIS, France – Abedi Ayew best known as Abedi Pele has made a name in African and world sports. After retiring active soccer, the Ghanaian star took on and engaged in what he knows best: sports and sports management, sports promotion, and sports mentoring.

At present, he owns a first division club, called Nania, with the future hopes of nurturing the young talent to augment the fledgling league of his native country, Ghana.

He has also been involved with various charity work across the African continent.

Born 5 November 1964), Abedi Pele, the Ghanaian former football star who played as an attacking midfielder and who served as captain of the Ghana national team continues to maintain his popularity by choosing to remain sports.

He is regarded as one of the greatest African footballers of all-time. He played for several European clubs and found his fame in the French Ligue 1 with Lille and Marseille, the latter where he won the UEFA Champions League in 1993, among other titles.

Three of his sons, Ibrahim, André, and Jordan, have also become internationals for Ghana; Ibrahim and André were selected for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, while André and Jordan played at the 2014 World Cup. 

Throughout his playing career, Abedi Pele was one of the pioneers of African football in Europe. He was 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 was instrumental in Marseille’s prominence in the UEFA Champions League during the early 1990s. Amongst his international accolades, he was often included in FIFA “All-Star” selections and captained the African All-Stars in their victory over their European counterparts in the 1997 Meridian Cup.

He left Ghana after the 1982 African Cup of Nations to join Al Sadd in Qatar for a $1,000 transfer fee.

 After a short spell with FC Zürich, he returned to Ghana but, after both Kotoko and Hearts of Oak failed to sign him, he joined AS Dragons FC de l’Ouémé in Benin.

He would later return to Ghana and play for Real Tamale United for one season. He began his career in Europe with French side Chamois Niort, subsequently joining Montpellier and Lille before transferring to Marseille. He later joined Lyon.

He also played for Torino of Italy and rounded out his European career with 1860 Munich.

Abedi Pele went on to sign a two-year contract with Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates and was nominated as one of the best foreign players to play in the UAE league.

He was a captain and was one of the first African football players to earn a top placing in FIFA World Player of the Year voting in 1991 and 1992. He is arguably Africa’s most decorated and honored football player ever, winning the France Football African Player of the Year Award three times, was the inaugural winner of the BBC African Sports Star of the Year in 1992, and the corresponding Confederation of African Football award 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 UEFA Champions League final win over Milan in 1993.

Abedi Pele played for Ghana 73 times and is considered the greatest football player in his country’s history, and among the best in Africa.

Until 7 June 2013, when he was surpassed by Asamoah Gyan, he was the top goal-scorer for the Black Stars 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 football scene for nearly a decade. His performance in the 1992 African Cup of Nations is often cited as one of the most outstanding football 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 the Ivory Coast after Abedi was suspended because of a yellow card he received in the semi-final against Nigeria. Prior to that, his three spectacular goals against Zambia, Congo, and Nigeria proved crucial in putting Ghana through to their seventh appearance in a CAN final – and their first final in ten 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 second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup.

His back-header goal against Nigeria from the edge of the opponent’s penalty box also heralded international acclaim.

Abedi holds the record for most appearances at the Nations Cup Finals, his record even surpassing the legendary Roger Milla of Cameroon.

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 a captain in 1991.

Aside from his acclaimed exploits at the 1992 competition, Abedi also earned much acclaim for his three goals at the 1996 competition, where he led Ghana to the semi-finals of the competition despite critics expecting him to be in the twilight of his career.

Like other African superstars, Abedi Pele is very popular and educated but why is he not pursuing a career in politics?

Well, Abide Pele is a wise individual and as the saying goes, “Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt.”

There is a biblical proverb that expresses a similar idea, namely Proverbs 17:28 of the King James Version: 

“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”

“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

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Paul Stevens

Paul Stevens is a researcher, media issues analyst and senior contributor with Globe Afrique.
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