Following Ghana’s nauseating performance at the 2023 AFCON in Ivory Coast, I am of an inexorable conviction that a few of the current Black Stars players must voluntarily retire from the team; otherwise, be summarily retired!
One of such players I expect to voluntarily retire from the national team is captain Andre Ayew.
Andre Ayew’s time with the national team is done, and you don’t need a soothsayer or special technical acumen to tell the obvious.
Ghana has had disastrous outings in consecutive AFCONs where we were bundled out at the group stage with one and two points in the 2021 and 2023 tournaments respectively.
Beyond these abysmal performances, the Black Stars have in recent times struggled against, hitherto, ‘football minnows’ like Comoros, Central African Republic, Nicaragua, Cape Verde and Mozambique among others.
Skipper Andre Ayew hasn’t been in good form for the team during these few challenging years and I strongly hold that after his debut in 2007, and with over 16 years of national team service under his belt, it is time for him to bow out gracefully, than be pushed out. The reality is that, sometimes, you are wholly willing to do your best in a particular situation, but it gets to a time where the spirit would be willing but the body would be weak.
We are humans and these are the vicissitudes of life!
Following the dissolution of Coach Chris Hughton’s technical team, it is time for the new coach who will be appointed to begin a cleansing of the team by rebuilding the team with the current crop of young talents available. They will falter. They will make mistakes. But they will grow; and they will learn. And they will win eventually!
In the ensuing disappointment expressed by a section of Ghanaians however, there have been scathing attacks, vituperations, invectives and aspersions cast at Andre Ayew which in my estimation, are utterly unfair to the 34 year old captain of the Black Stars.
Criticizing players is an age-long tradition which isn’t going to stop: Not today, not tomorrow, not ever! In fact, when constructive, it serves as a propeller for players who’re experiencing a downward spiral in their performance. But there’s a huge difference between outright vilification and constructive criticism.
Andre is being blatantly bastardized and demonized both on traditional and social media. What exactly is Andre’s crime? Did he invite himself to the AFCON? Didn’t he deserve to be called up as captain of an inexperienced team? Was he the one coaching the team? Was he responsible for team selection? Should he have refused to come on anytime Hughton asked him to? Did he intentionally handle the ball for Mozambique’s penalty? And once again, what exactly is his crime?
Fact of the matter is that, we’re unwilling to give Andre his flowers but are always quick to vilipend and disparage him, despite being integral in all of the Black Stars’ best performances since the ever popular Senegal ‘92 AFCON.
He was key in Ghana getting to the final of the 2010 AFCON in Angola where we lost to Egypt and he was named in the Team of the Tournament as a substitute. In that same year, he was in supreme form as Ghana made its first quarter final berth at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Interestingly, after the mundial, he was named as one of the Three Best Young Players of the Tournament alongside Germany’s Thomas Muller and Mexico’s Giovanni Dos Santos. Maybe, this feat wasn’t trumpeted enough and I’m inclined to believe not many Ghanaians know about this. Fast forward to AFCON 2015 where Ghana were again finalists, Andre Ayew won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer. It is undoubted that these three tournaments have been Ghana’s best outings since 1992, and Andre Ayew has been immanent in all of them.
What would most probably pass as Andre’s biggest achievement for Ghana is leading the Under- 20 team to win Africa’s first ever FIFA U-20 Word Cup in 2009: A feat still unmatched in Africa. Prior to this accomplishment, he had also led the team to win the Under-20 AFCON in Rwanda.
Andre Ayew may have had some bad patches in recent outings for the Black Stars but that doesn’t call for outright vilification and condemnation of all he’s given to the national team.
It must be succinctly accentuated that Andre presently wields the record as Ghana’s all-time top scorer at the AFCON with 10 goals. It must also be noted that he is the Ghanaian with the most AFCON tournaments (8) under his belt and joint in the whole of Africa for AFCON appearances (36) with Cameroon’s Rigobert Song.
Interestingly, some may not have noticed that this is a familiar story. Same happened to the legendary Asamoah Gyan, who is Ghana’s all-time top scorer with 51 goals.
Gyan scored two of Ghana’s most crucial goals to qualify us for our first World Cup appearance in 2006: Goals against Uganda and DR Congo, which were both scored away and earned us a point each. He subsequently had a good World Cup in Germany, scoring Ghana’s first ever goal at the Mundial. However, at the 2008 AFCON hosted in Ghana, Asamoah Gyan was so much vilified and bastardized that he packed his stuff, and was on his way out of camp, but for the intervention of then President of Ghana, J.A. Kuffuor.
Two years on, we had a blistering campaign at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and Gyan was Ghana’s lynchpin. He was in devastating form, scoring penalties against Serbia and Australia and a thumping winner against USA in the Round of 16. However, when he unfortunately missed a late penalty against Uruguay which would have sent us to the semi finals, he was once again torn apart by these same section of Ghanaians, forgetting what he had done throughout the tournament for the country.
Two years on, in 2012, Ghana went for another AFCON and Asamoah Gyan missed a crucial penalty in the semi finals against Zambia and the Chipolopolos went on to win the game. Once again Gyan was at the receiving end of invectives which led him to take an indefinite break from the Black Stars where he cited verbal abuse from fans as his reason for taking that break. After returning from his indefinite international break, Asamoah Gyan announced that he would no longer take penalties for the Black Stars.
Isn’t this a familiar story? Isn’t this exactly what is being meted out to Andre Ayew?
Surprisingly, but not so astounding for some of us, these same people who bastardized and vilified Asamoah Gyan in his time, are the same people hailing him now and wishing he were with the Black Stars currently. Hypocritical, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s just funny; to put it mildly.
And I trust that Andre will retire from the Black Stars sooner than later. And by sooner, I indeed mean now! And I am convinced that just as is happening with Asamoah Gyan now, Andre Ayew will also vivaciously receive his flowers and plaudits from these same section of Ghanaians who are today pillorying him.
But whichever way it goes, or whether we loathe him or love him, one thing will be. And that is, his name, Andre Ayew, will forever be etched in gold in the annals of Ghana’s football history!