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Dede on Ghana’s future

Kennedy Gondwe /Twenty Ten

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Andre Ayew’s thoughts on Ghana’s future.

Associated features on Ghana: Daily living to a fan (Photo feature), Soccerscapes (Photo feature), Ghana's Black Queens (Photo feature), Second hand goods (Photo feature), Ghana's future stars (Photo feature), A female football fan (Photo feature) and Sports commentators (Photo feature)

Ghanaian players cried buckets of tears after only seconds separated them from becoming the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final on July 2. Some pundits criticised the team’s failure to seize their ‘golden opportunity’ while others argued that the Black Stars’ performance exceeded people’s expectations.

Olympique Marseille’s Black Star, Andre Ayew, gave his thoughts before the team jetted back to Accra after the tournament.

Every visitor was screened and scrutinised at the entrance to the Protea Parkitonian Hotel as a horde of autograph-excited fans were locked outside. They had been standing in the cold since day break in the hope of catching a glimpse of Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari, Stephen Appiah, Kevin-Prince Boateng et al on their last day in South Africa.

Everyone wanted a piece of the Black Stars team. For those who didn’t have a piece of paper handy, bare skin was offered to the pens of the players. Camera phones flashed from every direction in a bid to capture memories of the Black Stars in the flesh.

Inside the hotel lobby a shabbily dressed, sweaty fan painted in Ghana’s national colours was grappling with the act of balancing a calabash while wriggling his waist and occasionally tossing his buttocks in a bid to entertain onlookers. Suddenly, Dede stepped out of the lift and a chorus of loud cheers greeted him. He was soon whisked to the nearest corner for a five-minute interview before he headed to the airport.

For youngster Andre Ayew, one of the shining stars in the team, the tournament in South Africa was a learning curve. With his eyes firmly focussed on the future, Ayew, who is popularly referred to as Dede, was already looking ahead with optimism.

“This was a good World Cup in everyway; for Ghana, Africa, South Africa and the organisers,” said the Olympique Marseille star. “Ghana could have done better but it’s all part of the game. We need to learn from this World Cup in order to go places.”

Dede learnt numerous lessons from the tournament, especially considering it was his fourth international tournament in two years. After participating in the 2008 African Nations Cup final that his country hosted, Ayew punctuated his rise to stardom by captaining his Under-20 national side to World victory last year in Egypt. This year, he moved two notches up: losing finalist to Egypt at the Africa Cup in Angola and a quarter-final berth at the World Cup in South Africa.

It marks the development of a new generation of Black Stars, making an impact on the international football stage. However, this generation has a lot to learn, Dede acknowledged: “I have learnt how to play in such big tournaments because matches at such competitions come with a lot of pressure,” Dede said. It was the pressure that made the team fail at a decisive moment, missing three penalties against Uruguay. But he did not want to moan about that. Dede said that handling pressure was an important element in a player’s growth.

“Playing at the Under-20 World and the senior one in just a few months has made me see the difference. What is important is not to play well but be consistent in form,” he said.

Dede felt that he had surpassed his own expectations at the tournament. When he left Accra for South Africa, he did not expect to be starting ahead of established stars like Inter Milan’s Sulley Muntari. His aim was just to be in the squad. Also, he was not sure whether Ghana would qualify to the quarter-finals from a group that pitted them against regular campaigners, Germany.

Being the son of a Ghanaian legend Abedi, a three time African Footballer of the Year, ex-European and Nations Cup champion, comparisons did not elude the minds of many pundits. Abedi may have been in a class of his own, but he never won the Under-20 World Cup and he did not play at the senior’s tournament. Dede was aware that he could not avoid being compared to his father, yet he said that he wanted to be judged in his own right.

“I am proud that my father was a footballer, but I don’t want to be compared with him,” says the 20-year-old winger-cum-striker. “I have grown up with the pressure of being compared to him and I no longer feel it. I have now grown into the game and I can handle that.”

With football seasons in Europe about to resume, Dede did not think a future away from Marseille was far from happening. He confirmed a number of clubs had made inquiries about him, but said he wanted to take time to ponder his future.

Back to the future of the current Ghanaian team.

Before their departure from South Africa, it seemed that their loss against Uruguay was forgotten. There were no traces of long faces or tears, leading one to believe that they were already focussed on their next World cup campaign, which needs to take them to the semi-finals in Brazil in 2014.

“Our key to success is unity. We stay as a unit and we want to die as such. We always want to fight for one another and that’s important,” said Dede. “We have great individuals in the team and when you use that to your advantage, you can make things good.”

Dede is not the only one who thinks like this. Defender John Pantsil who campaigns for English premiership side Fulham had a similar view: “The entire team fought from the beginning to the end and everyone did hid part. Our performance has been great,” he said. “We have to continue from where we ended. I see a great future in this team I hope to be part of it for another four years.”

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