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All you need to know about Abedi Pele on his 55th birthday

By Vincent Ashitey
 Abedi Pele
Abedi Pele

Abedi Ayew ( born 5 November 1964), known professionally as Abedi Pele, is a Ghanaian former footballer who played as an attacking midfielder and who served as captain of the Ghana national team.

Abedi Ayew was born into a family in the town of Kibi and grew up in the town of Dome at the northern outskirts of the city Accra

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.

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 goalscorer 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 backheader 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 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.

At club level, he was a key figure in Marseille's dominance of the French league, resulting in four league championships and two European Cup finals appearances. An attacking midfielder, Abedi became as famous for his sublime dribbling skills as he did for his knack for scoring spectacular and often very important goals.

At Marseille, he was a member of the team's "Magical Trio" along with Jean-Pierre Papin and Chris Waddle, spearheading perhaps Europe's strongest league side of the early 1990s, including a European Cup final defeat in 1991. Abedi was the only remaining member of the trio still with the side when Marseille defeated Milan in the 1993 Champions League final in Munich.

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 Pele 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. Abedi is considered one of the best players in World History not to have appeared at the FIFA World Cup, and perhaps the greatest African football player ever.

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 became the first Ghanaian sportsman to be so honoured.

After retirement
In 2001, the UEFA–CAF Meridian Cup All-Star Match format was changed slightly for the second All-Star Match to bring together great players aged between 35 and 45 who now revel in their 'veteran' status and play the game purely for pleasure. The squad sparked off memories of great footballing moments at club and international level.

Football Ambassador
In June 2001 he was 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.

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

Personal life

Abedi is the brother of Kwame and Sola Ayew (ex-Hearts of Oak and Black Meteors). He is also the father of André, Jordan, Rahim, Imani, and is married to Maha. Two of his children - Andre and Rahim - represented Ghana in the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Jordan and Andre represented Ghana in the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil.