Ghana: the nostalgic but complex relay from André Ayew to Al Sadd

The Ghanaian star follows in the footsteps of his father Abedi Pele in Nadi Al Sadd in Qatar. While his arrival at the club was exciting, the bigger picture offers a complex view of the reality of world football.

“I started my career in Nadi [Al] Sadd, ”says Ghanaian football legend Abedi Pele. “I went to Europe and won trophies there. Today, after 39 years … “The camera turns to her son, André Ayew, who completes the sentence:” I am André, and I am now at Al Sadd to carry on my father’s legacy and earn more of trophies. “

July’s nostalgic video announcing the signing of Ayew by Qatari league champions, which has gone viral in Ghana, revealed an almost unknown chapter in Pelé’s legendary career that unfolded during the more ‘humble early days. Of Qatari football.

This four-decade circle encompassing the ‘first family’ of Ghanaian football and the Qatari club offers an exciting view of one of Africa’s most fabulous stars, his legacy and the relationship between money and the postmodern reality of footballers. Africans in the Gulf.

A year before Qatar hosted the region’s first FIFA World Cup, many international African football stars signed for clubs in the Middle East. Moussa Marega, Vincent Aboubakar, Christian Atsu, Patrick Eze and Knowledge Musona have all settled in the Gulf this year, signing lucrative multi-million dollar contracts with teams in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In the past, the Middle Eastern leagues were popular destinations for veteran footballers to earn one last big paycheck before hanging up their shoes. But this is no longer the case. All of the players mentioned above still have enough good years to have played in the best or middle leagues in Europe.

Ayew’s arrival in Qatar is no different in terms of salary. At 31, he would be pledged at $ 220,000 (approximately Rand 325,000 at the time of signing) per month for two years, with the option of a third year.

But in terms of heritage, culture and symbolism, the landing of the Black Stars skipper in Doha is above other renowned African signatures in the region. Money idolatry and overly lucrative contracts are part of a football reality in which club owners in the Middle East play a major role, but this transfer had more significance in terms of legacy.

Different days in Qatar

Pelé was one of the first African footballers to achieve international success, and his first games outside Ghana were at Al Sadd. “When Abedi Pele joined Al Sadd in 1982, it was counted as a random move,” says Ahmed Hashim, co-founder of Qatar Football Live and big fan of Al Sadd.

“He was 18 and an Al Sadd official went to Ghana to get him signed. A rising star in Ghana, his fans have reportedly tried to prevent him from going there. “Abedi was hesitant at first … worried about feeling alone and scared out there with no one of the same skin color as his.” Pelé did not know that there were people of all colors in Qatar. But in his first training session, he met Mubarak Ghanim and, according to Hashim, this “helped allay his concerns.”

It was different days in Qatari football. There was no Aspire Academy or World Cup in sight, and there were also no millions of dollars offered to established or older international players. “It was the kind of transfer Qatari clubs were looking for [for] back then, “says Hashim – talented, inexpensive young footballers.

According to various sources, Al Sadd got Pele for a lump sum of around $ 1,000. He trained on the grounds of Msheireb’s school and lived in an apartment above an Indian restaurant in Najma, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Doha.

But has Pelé had a tangible impact on the local game in Qatar? “We have very little stock footage or documents from that time, but from what I was able to find, Abedi didn’t stay long and didn’t win anything with the club,” Hashim said. . “However, he did play and played a big part in the infamous 1983 Amir Cup final against Al-Arabi, which irritates Al Sadd fans to this day.”

It was a close match. Al-Arabi took the lead in the 80th minute with a powerful free kick from Brazilian star Geraldo. “In the 87th minute, Abedi Pelé stepped into the box and was knocked down by [the] guardian of Al-Arabi.

“The referee whistled after some thought, but not for a penalty. Oddly, he called for an indirect free kick and Al Sadd’s players were furious. A fight broke out and Al Sadd’s manager told his players The referee immediately ended the match, but Al Sadd’s players did not collect their finalist medals. Instead, they left to celebrate as “winners.”

To this day, Al Sadd fans claim that referee Mustafa Ezzat was then the coach of the youth team at Al-Arabi. “He withdrew from refereeing after this game,” Hashim said. “Al Sadd officials issued a statement expressing their symbolic motion of no confidence in the Qatari Football Association, whose president at the time was Sultan Al Suwaidi, a former president of Al-Arabi.”

A family of footballers

Having already left Ghana probably facilitated the signing of FC Zurich in Switzerland. We’ll never know what would have happened to Pele if he hadn’t signed for Al Sadd, but Ayew said after joining the club that “my dad played here and it’s the club that gave him the opportunity to leave Ghana “.

A few months later, Ayew can already tick one thing his father didn’t do for Al Saad: winning the Amir Cup without controversy. He also topped his father’s international appearances for Ghana with 100 caps while his father won 73. Under continued comparisons with his father, Ayew became the Ghana national team and the leader in football. He has coached Ghana to the play-offs of the World Cup qualifiers, and if the Black Stars clear that final hurdle, he will lead his team next year on familiar ground.

Ayew was born André Morgan Rami Ayew in Seclin, France, a town not far from the city of Lille, where his father played on loan from Marseille. Football defined Pelé on and off the pitch, so it was no surprise that his sons followed in his footsteps. And Ayew comes from a family of footballers. His uncles Kwame and Sola were internationals for Ghana, his younger brother Jordan has played with him at several clubs throughout his career and is now a striker for Crystal Palace, and his older half-brother Ibrahim plays for Europa FC in Gibraltar.

Ayew has had a dream career. He followed in his father’s footsteps in Marseille and became a Welsh club legend along with Swansea and the beloved son of millions of Fenerbahçe fans in Istanbul.

“My goal is to win titles, to make the fans happy, to put in the effort and try to win the AFC Champions League,” Ayew said in July of Al Sadd. But Hashim says the latter “will be extremely difficult for them in 2022 as they will have to play without their Qatari internationals.”

That Ayew described him as the club’s primary target shows he has embraced Al Sadd’s philosophy and his desire to win a third Asian title, more than a decade after the team’s last triumph, has declared Hashim. “Looking at his performances, celebrations, TV interviews and social media presence so far, you can tell he has settled down well in Doha and is in tune with his teammates.”

Shiny objects

The nostalgia surrounding Ayew’s move to Al Sadd highlights the power of sports wash. The influence of Qatar and the Middle East in Europe is reshaping football. Their oil wealth funds efforts to change the way the Western public perceives them, and there has been a strong push to acquire clubs, host big sporting events and attract talent.

A Saudi-led consortium has bought Newcastle United in a controversial deal and as preparations for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup accelerate, criticism from different parts of the world is also picking up. Problems such as working conditions on construction sites, the number of casualties during stadium construction and the country’s questionable human rights record are drowned out by the shiny objects the region acquires through football.

It’s no wonder, then, that this chapter of Ayew’s career is seen as thrilling, a link between the past and the present, without any mention of the suffering between the two. It reminds the world that Qatar had a football culture in the 1980s, even though the story is not often told or seen in Europe. After all, would Pelé still end up in Marseille, winning the prestigious UEFA Champions League, if he hadn’t left Ghana for Al Sadd?

With Ayew already a made man, it will be interesting to see what this chapter with Al Sadd does for him, other than filling his pocket more.

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