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Waiting for Andre Ayew – A Story of the Man

“When you follow the path of your father, you learn to walk like him”  – Ashanti Proverb


The Brink

During the 2015/16, West Ham suffered a plague of injuries. From Winston Reid, James Tomkins to their high profile signing at the time, James Collins. This season was supposed to be different for the club. They had banked their hope on Andre Ayew, a fairly durable and on-form striker, from Swansea. The Black Star was so impressive last season that he caught the attention of Slaven Bilic, West Ham’s manager.

Bilic pulled out all the stops to sign the striker for a club record fee of £20.5 million. In Ayew’s first interview as a Hammer, he said:

“I am very proud and happy to be at this magnificent Club. I am happy to be playing for these fans, and I hope to make the people very happy here.

“The Club has a lot of ambition and a great manager. They want to become a bigger Club every year, and with the new Stadium and a new training ground, you can feel they are moving onto another level, and I want to be part of this project.

“I want to train hard, do my job and show that I deserve to play for West Ham United. I want to give back to the manager and the fans the confidence they are showing me.”

Mark Noble, his new teammate, could not hide his excitement.

“I think he’s top quality. As soon as I saw that we were in to sign him, I was over the moon. I played against him twice last year, and he was on a different gear.”

Charlie Nicholas, an Arsenal legend, predicted big things for the record signing.

“He’s a decent player. Playing with better players, he could get better again. There’s a lot I do like about him.”

However, unpredictable things happen – sometimes it rains when the prediction was for the sun. In this case, the brilliant striker’s debut was cut short by – you guessed it – another injury.

Now, the club trails at the lower end of the Premier League table, and devout fans are left wondering, is it just bad luck? Or are mysterious forces at play?

A West Ham news tweeted “Dean Ashton. Andy Carroll. Andre Ayew. All record signings at one point and all injury prone.”
But wait, there is good news. According to recent reports, the West Ham United winger may return to action by month’s end, which is much sooner than initially expected. Previously, his hamstring injury was deemed to be so extensive that he would be sidelined for up to four months. But, as per, West Ham’s head of medical and sports science Stijn Vandenbroucke, Ayew will be back soon.

“His comeback will be crucial, but we believe it is a team effort, and definitely we will turn things around,” he said.

As we wait in desperate hope, we look back at the story of the man who will fight to bring West Ham back from fringes of an unexceptional season.

Born to Play Football

Ayew hails from a family of footballers, his father Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew, was a three- time African Footballer of the year. His uncles, Kwame and Sola Ayew, were international soccer players. And his two brothers, Ibrahim and Jordan Ayew have shared the pitch with him on the national cup stage. It suffices to say; soccer is in their blood, and Ayew was born to play.

At a very young age, he started to show promise as a footballer. He started off playing on the streets as a five-year-old. Clearly, he had the talent, but he was not going to sit there and let it blossom on its own. At the age of 10, he would join the FC Nania Academy in his first step to working on his craft as a young footballer.

At the age of 16, his father’s former club came knocking. Ayew was signed to Marseille where he spent two seasons in the club’s youth academy before making his senior team debut in the 2007/08 season. However, his time at his father’s club was cut short. He was loaned to Lorient FC and Arles-Arvignon which he helped qualify to Ligue 1 for the first time. He appeared in 26 matches and scored four goals for the club.

In 2010, he returned to Marseille and became an integral part of the first team under manager Didier Deschamps, winning consecutive Trophée des champions and Coupe de la Ligue in 2010 and 2011. Also in 2011, he was voted as the BBC African Footballer of the Year, a prize won by his father 19 years previously.

Love for Team and Country

More than what Ayew has ever said, his actions were always loudest when it came to his country. In August this year, the Ghanaian ministry of sports announced that their consistent practice of sending the Black Stars players living abroad business class tickets to report for games would not be possible ahead of their AFCON qualifier game. Next, Ayew surprised the African football world when he offered to buy the tickets for some players.

On the pitch, he has done much more for the glory of his country. As the captain of Ghana’s under 20 youth teams, he leads them to win two major cups, the African Youth Championships, and the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

A Cosmopolitan Man

Although most of his schooling was in France, he speaks English and several other languages fluently. Even his upbringing was privileged; he has a well developed cultural intelligence. His colleagues have shared that conversation with him is easy. Ayew gives the credit to his parents who, from an early age, impressed upon him important values.

“They made sure I was able to be myself,” he said. “I always had two different ways of seeing things. My father had come from really a very poor background. My mothers was very different. She came from a very ‘good’ family. I wouldn’t say I had everything I wanted as a kid, but certainly, we had the most important things, and we had parents who advised us and help us grow up.”

  The Dream and the Shadow

Being the son of a global icon may have its perks, but there is a darker side to that moon. On the dark side, it was the burden of pressure. The pressure to step out of his fathers shadow. Even though Ayew is trying to be his own man, it hasn’t been easy.

“People are always talking about my dad and what he had done and always wanting to see him in you, but I’d been taught to expect that, and when I decided to go with trying to make a life in football, I knew that would be waiting for me. I knew I wanted to make my own name in it.”

So he took a significant step towards stepping out of his father’s shadow and started planning his dream move to the English Premier League. In that time, he received offers from Italy and Germany, but nothing could derail him from his premiership goals. Ayew’s father joined in on the process, but it was difficult.

“Getting there was not easy; it took so many phone calls and talking to many clubs,” Ayew’s father said.

Meanwhile, in Swansea City, Ayew’s future teammate, Baftembi Gomis was mounting a lobbying campaign of his own. After a while, he succeeded.

“I spoke to Bafe, who really wanted me to come here,” Ayew recalled in his first interview as a Swan. “He told me about the club’s record season and also about the team spirit, manager, training, the players and how everyone is united. The project that the club has for the future is very exciting, and when I spoke to the chairman and manager, I felt this was the right place for me.

“I felt that my desire to play in the Premier League and wanting to grow as a player meant that Swansea was the best solution for me in every way.

“Seeing the honesty and desire of the club made me feel that they really wanted me to come. They have proved that in all ways.”

Ayew would repay Swansea’s confidence by posting up big performances including his 12 goals and two assists for the season. He helped steer the Welsh club away from danger into premier league safety.

The Recovery

“Andre returned to France as planned to continue his rehab. He will return to Rush Green at the weekend. He has been working very hard on the pitch and is ready for the next stage in the rehab, introducing the ball, passing, kicking and faster running. Andre will continue working on improving his fitness levels for the next few weeks before he will join controlled introduction sessions with the Under-23’s,” said Vandenbroucke on Ayew’s recent status.

In his absence, West Ham has struggled mightily. They’ve only managed one win and one draw. The rest, losses. Could this, therefore, mean that Ayew’s return may spark West Ham into life. Will he be the same player that fans have come to love? The Ayew with the good pace, aerial ability, excellent positioning and unselfishness? Maybe.

But like the Ghanaian proverb says, the “rain may wet the leopard’s skin, but it can not wash out the spots.”

Ayew was born to play football. It’s in his nature. And just like the leopard, the rain won’t change who he is.

Featured Photo: Courtesy of

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