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Sports Features of Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Source: Christopher Opoku

Ayews wrong to quit Black Stars

Surprised? Perhaps you might be because you would have noticed that I have followed the Ayew saga with more than a passing interest.

Many have passed their respective comments since both Ayew brothers were controversially dropped from the 2013 African Nations Cup squad and with Andre and Jordan Ayew both deciding to temporarily quit the Black Stars, opinion has been sharply divided.

Some blame the Ghana Football Association for poor man management which has led to the current impasse, whilst others blame Black Stars head coach Kwasi Appiah for not handling the way he dropped both players well enough.

Others also feel that the Ayews are trying to hold the country to ransom with their decision to “take a break”.

This is the first time I am going to publicly state my view regarding the ongoing situation and all I can say is that it is an objective a view as possible. I might end up stepping on several toes in doing this, but this is one of those times when a spade is called one and not a spoon.

First of all, the Ghana Football Association fouled up when its top hierarchy decided to make public a decision to force Andre Ayew to apologise for certain infractions in camp after the game against Malawi in Accra.

That was very poorly handled by the GFA and for me, it was a public relations own goal. Who says players cannot be punished in private?

Choosing to go public and playing it out until Andre Ayew eventually produced an apology letter which really didn’t say anything was the worst way to handle the situation.

Again, dropping Jordan Ayew from the 2013 African Nations Cup squad without giving any clear reasons was another PR own goal.

What made it difficult to for the decision to be justified was the fact that the young forward was enjoying a consistent run in one of Europe’s biggest teams, Marseille and even if he wasn’t going to start for Ghana, at the very least he would have been an option off the bench.

I am later told that Jordan had not played well in previous Ghana matches and that may have played a part in his axing, but since the player was told nothing, that didn’t help.

Let me be blunt and say that Andre Ayew was not blameless in his dropping from the squad.

Had he at least made an effort to get to Abu Dhabi on that Monday, after Marseille released him, he probably would have played a role in South Africa. We all know what happened instead and he was left out.

Another PR own goal was scored when a top GFA official publicly made denigrating remarks about the two players on various media platforms.

Eventually the same official was forced into an embarrassing climb-down when he went down on his knees to apologise to the boys’ father, Abedi Ayew “Pele” for his comments. I am reliably informed that had it not been for the presence of Mighty Jets owner, Abu Sondonko, Abedi would probably have driven the official out of his house.

Add all this up and the end result was that the Ayew brothers probably felt that the world was against them and the GFA was not prepared to show any support of any kind to them.

Clearly their decisions to “temporarily” quit the Black Stars were borne out of that pain of feeling rejected. But was that the right decision? Sorry, I don’t think so!

You see, both players are relatively young and yet to hit their peak. They have done very well for themselves at Marseille and Andre Ayew in particular is looked on as a future club captain; such is his influence already.

Indeed Andre showed us all that he is a born leader with the way he led the Black Satellites to glory at the 2009 World Youth Cup and with many more playing years ahead of him, he would have been the logical choice to captain the Black Stars in a few years to come.

I am fully aware that Andre does have a burning desire to lead the Black Stars just like his father did years ago, which is why I feel that his decision to back out now, will definitely hurt that ambition.

The attacking midfielder is a very strong person mentally and so I would have thought that he would have used Ghana’s 2014 World Cup qualifier against Sudan to show that it was a mistake to drop him from the AFCON squad in the first place.

So for me, deciding to leave the Black Stars now is totally out of character with the player that we all know and as I said, it will permanently damage his chances of captaining the side in the future because he will be accused of chickening out when the going got tough.

In Jordan’s case, even though he is a very promising forward, he is still developing and like his elder brother, he should have seized the opportunity to show what he can do against Sudan.

Do not forget that he had his first Black Stars start against Sudan and didn’t play particularly well, so this would have been an opportunity not only to redeem himself, but to also show what the Black Stars might have missed in South Africa.

In his original letter to the GFA, he says he was continually ranked below several strikers. Sorry, but I don’t agree with that. He has had opportunities for the Black Stars and naturally he played well in some games and didn’t in others.

In choosing to follow his elder brother’s lead and temporarily quitting the Black Stars now, I believe he has made a big mistake which he could pay for later in his career.

In this day and age where playing for the Black Stars has become little more than an exercise to raise money, it must never be forgotten how prestigious it is to represent one’s country and such caps also have a bearing when contract talks are ongoing as per reviewing of respective wages at one’s club. So in the long run, it could have a negative financial impact on the two players

There is also the risk that, since both players are yet to fully develop and hit their peak, if the Black Stars technical team decides to move on (I wouldn’t blame them if they did), and selected other players who could potentially make people forget the Ayews, what justification then would they have for rejoining the team if Ghana should make it to the 2014 World Cup? Talk about the monkey working and the baboon chopping………….

I can understand that both players feel hurt, rejected and hard done by and the fact that they fingered the Black Stars management team in their respective letters is symptomatic of the fact that they have been poorly man-managed, but choosing to stay out now is looking like the easy way out with every passing day. It is indeed a gamble that could blow up in their faces.

I wasn’t happy with the way they were treated and I will freely admit that I thought they should have gone to South Africa. At the same time however, I don’t think they have taken the best decision in quitting and in rejecting a request from the GFA to make themselves available for the Sudan game, they may not know it, but potentially they have locked the door back into the Black Stars and thrown away the keys.