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Young Ghanaian World Cup Star Follows in Father's Footsteps

  • Sonny Young

One of the young stars on Ghana's World Cup football team is Andre "Dede" Ayew, a 20-year-old midfielder who was named "Man of the Match" in Ghana's recent 2-1 victory over the United States in the Round of 16. Ayew is following in his famous father's footsteps.

Ayew was born in France, where his father, three-time African Footballer of the Year Abedi Pele, was playing for the French club of Lille at the time. His father's love of football was passed down to his sons.

Three of Dede's brothers - Ibrahim, Jordan and Imani - also play the sport. Ibrahim is a reserve on "The Black Stars" of Ghana. While Abedi Pele achieved glory for Ghana and in European club football, his sons Dede and Ibrahim have climbed a soccer summit their father never reached - they are getting the chance to participate in a World Cup.

Dede began his organized football career at the age of 10, playing for his father's club, Nania, in Accra, Ghana. After developing his skills with Nania for almost six seasons, he returned to France to play for his father's former club Marseille, and recently he has been on loan to two other French clubs, Lorient and Arles-Avignon.

Because of his dual French-Ghanaian citizenship, Dede was eligible to play for the national teams of both France and Ghana. Initially, he chose France, and made one appearance with the France under-age-18 team. In 2007, Dede made his first international appearance for Ghana, coming on as a late-match substitute in a friendly game against Senegal. And since then, Dede has secured his place on "The Black Stars" of Ghana.

Dede says "The Black Stars" are now focused on Friday and their quarterfinal match-up against Uruguay at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.

"Uruguay is a very good team," says Dede. "They have great strikers, they have great players, too. So, we need to focus. We are going to follow the coach's strategy very well. And I think if we do what he wants us to do, and God is behind us, then everything is going to be possible."

One thing that is not possible is Dede playing against Uruguay on Friday. In Ghana's 2-1 victory over the U.S. Saturday, Ayew picked up his second yellow card, which ruled him out of the match against Uruguay.

Dede describes the prospect of sitting on the sidelines during a World Cup quarterfinal as infuriating. He says he is hoping his teammates can beat Uruguay so he can play in the semifinals. Ayew says it would be a historic moment to play in a World Cup semifinal on African soil.

No African team has ever reached the semifinals at football's premier event. Ghana is the third African side to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals. Cameroon first reached the final eight at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and Senegal did it at the 2002 World Cup, co-hosted by Japan and South Korea.

As Dede Ayew said earlier, everything is going to be possible for Ghana at the 2010 World Cup, as long as "The Black Stars" continue to follow the coach's strategy. Ayew has praise for Ghana's Serbian coach, Milovan Rajevac.

"He has done a lot for Ghana, and today he has gotten us to the World Cup quarterfinals," says Ayew. "And that means we have done better than we did at the World Cup four years ago, which is very important for us. Since the beginning of the competition, we have been showing that tactically we are sound, and technically also. And all this is due to the coach. We have worked a lot on this. And I think the players are respecting his wishes. And if we continue respecting what the coach wants, it is going to benefit not just us, but also the whole continent."

Ayew says he believes the whole continent of Africa is behind "The Black Stars" of Ghana in their quest to make World Cup history.

Early in the extra time period against the U.S., Ayew played a crucial role in the game's decisive play. He sent a long, deep ball to teammate Asamoah Gyan, who collected the pass and then knocked the game-winning shot past U.S. goalie Tim Howard.

Dede's leadership skills were apparent to all of Africa in international competition before this World Cup kicked off. He wore the captain's armband for Ghana at last year's FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Egypt, where in the final, Ghana beat Brazil, 4-3 on penalties, to lift the trophy.

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