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SportsThe Curtain Falls: Andre Ayew's omission from Ghana squad signals end of...

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The Curtain Falls: Andre Ayew’s omission from Ghana squad signals end of an era

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You rarely see a Ghana coach meet the press to announce his squad.

When the Ghana Football Association revealed Otto Addo would have a press conference on Wednesday to unveil his squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Mali and Central African Republic, eyebrows were raised.

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It could be that the association wanted to formally introduce their new coach, or some difficult decisions were made pertaining to the squad and further explanation was needed. The latter proved to be the reason, with one one name absent from the squad – Andre Ayew (34).

“At the moment, Andre is a living legend of Ghana. It’s unbelievable what he did for the country and it’s the most difficult decision because I like him as a person and also as a player. And this is a decision we took not like we totally agreed but I gave him the explanation,” new head coach Addo explained to the press.

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The exclusion of the Black Stars captain has sent shockwaves through the country. For years, a growing contingent of fans anticipated a national team setup without Ayew, only to have their hopes dashed as the prolific captain’s omission seemed to become an increasingly distant impossibility.

Even when whispers intensified on Ayew’s potential exclusion from the Ghana squad, the veteran’s name would invariably appear when the final roster was unveiled, leaving many to question whether his presence was indispensable.

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However, this time it was a reality.

In the past few years, Ayew has been the talisman, the heartbeat of the Ghanaian national team. His leadership, goals, and sheer presence have been instrumental in some of the Black Stars’ most memorable moments in recent times.

Yet, with the hands of time unforgiving, and a new generation of talent emerging, head coach Addo appears ready to turn the page and embark on a rebuilding process that may not include the veteran forward.

Ayew’s Indelible Mark on Ghanaian Football
Despite holding dual French and Ghanaian citizenship, Ayew’s allegiance always lay with the West African nation, inspired by his father’s legacy. However, his path to representing Ghana was not without its twists and turns.

Initially, Ayew entertained the idea of playing for France, citing the Ghana Football Association’s failure to reach out to him. He even participated in training camps with the French U-18 team and turned down multiple overtures from their U-21 side. At one point, Ayew issued a stern warning, declaring: “At this moment there is only one choice to make because I have only received an invitation from one country and that is France.”

Ultimately, though, the allure of following in his father’s footsteps proved too strong to ignore. Ayew’s journey with the Black Stars began at the youth level, where he captained the U-20 team to glory at the 2009 African Youth Championship and the FIFA U-20 World Cup, scoring crucial goals along the way.

On August 7, 2007, Ayew received his first senior call-up from Ghana coach Claude Le Roy, making his debut as a late substitute against Senegal. His international career would reach new heights at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), where he scored his first goal for the Black Stars and helped them reach the final.

Ayew’s impact on the world stage was felt at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. His pinpoint lob set up Asamoah Gyan’s winning goal against the United States in the Round of 16, earning him the Man of the Match award from FIFA.

Despite a brief retirement in 2013 due to disputes with the Ghana FA, Ayew returned to lead the Black Stars to the 2014 World Cup, scoring crucial goals against the United States and Germany.

Now the captain of the national team, Ayew’s influence has only grown stronger. He led Ghana’s charge at the 2022 World Cup, becoming the only Ghanaian player to feature in the nation’s last three World Cup appearances. His equalizing goal against Portugal underscored his enduring importance, even as his missed penalty against Uruguay in the decisive group stage match proved costly.

If Ghana has seen the last of Ayew, then he leaves as the country’s most-capped player with 120 appearances. He is Ghana’s highest scorer at the AFCON and also has played the most games in the tournament’s history.

Regardless of what the future holds, Andre Ayew’s legacy as a Ghanaian football icon is secure. His achievements, both on and off the pitch, have cemented his place among the nation’s all-time greats.

A Changing of the Guard

Prior to the squad announcement, it was widely reported in Ghana that Addo travelled across Europe communicating his vision of moving forward with a younger core to some senior figures of the national team.

Ayew, who has had a fairly decent Ligue 1 season with Le Havre scoring five goals, is a victim of the old guard who is being phased out by the former Borussia Dortmund talent coach.

While the end of an era is always bittersweet, it also ushers in a new dawn filled with hope and potential. As one chapter closes, another begins, and the Black Stars will look to a new generation of stars to carry the torch and continue the quest for glory on the grandest stages of African and world football.

At 34 years old, and with the next World Cup two years away, it is understandable that Addo may be looking to the future. The German-born coach has already shown a willingness to integrate promising youngsters. 

In his first squad upon his return as Black Stars coach, 14 out of the 26 players called up were under 25 years old. The call-ups to players like Nathaniel Adjei (21), Forson Amankwah (21), Francis Abu (23), and Ibrahim Osman (19) were an indication of the direction Addo wanted to take in his second tenure.

It’s been back-to-back group stage exits at the AFCON for Ghana, hence the cue to rebuild a once-strong team.

In the absence of Ayew, Kudus will play as the number 10 as the West Ham midfielder embarks on his own legacy with the national team.

The 23-year-old, who has 11 goals in 32 games, is now in pole position to lead the next generation of the Black Stars.

While Ayew’s exclusion from the upcoming qualifiers may not necessarily signify an outright retirement from international football, it could clearly indicate that a guard changing is underway in the Ghana camp.

What next for Andre Ayew?

Though Ayew is 34 years, he showed no signs of slowing down in the just ended Ligue 1 season. He missed pre-season and joined Le Havre as a free agent after the summer transfer window. However, his determination and willingness to play saw him get up to speed in no time and become a mainstay in the Le Havre starting XI.

He made his debut for Le Club doyen late November and then went on to play 1184 minutes. In his 20 games played for the Ligue 1 side, he scored six goals in all competitions. His one-year contract with Le Havre ends in June 2024.

Since 2019, Ayew has played for five clubs namely Swansea, Fenerbahce, Al Sadd, Nottingham Forest, and Le Havre. Though this proves he still belongs at the highest level, it also hints that clubs aren’t willing to commit long-term with the forward.

Earlier this season, when Ayew was without a club, he was called to the national team by Chris Hughton. But the standards under Addo are different and even Ayew’s best run of form in the latter part of the season didn’t seem to be enough.

Andre Ayew played for Ghana in the recent AFCON

If Andre Ayew’s best run of form this season couldn’t secure him a place in the Black Stars squad, it raises serious doubts about his chances of a future call-up under Otto Addo. The head coach’s vision for the national team seems focused on rejuvenation, as evidenced by the squad’s average age of 24.4 years for the recent qualifiers against Mali and Central African Republic. 

This figure is even lower than the average age of 24.7 years that Addo fielded during the 2022 World Cup campaign, where Ayew was a core member. 

With the Black Stars undergoing a clear transition towards a younger generation of players, the 34-year-old Ayew may find himself on the outside looking in, unless he can produce an exceptional run of form that simply cannot be ignored by the national team technical team. 

Addo’s commitment to rebuilding with a fresh crop of talent could very well signal the definitive end of an era for the long-serving captain.

Full Ghana Squad: 

Goalkeepers: Lawrence Ati-Zigi (St Gallen), Jojo Wollacot (Hibernian FC), Frederick Asare (Asante Kotoko)

Defenders: Gideon Mensah (AJ Auxerre),Ebenezer Annan (FK Novi Pazar), Mohammed Salisu (AS Monaco), Jerome Opoku (Istanbul Basaksehir), Abdul Mumin (Rayo Vallecano), Alexander Djiku (Fenerbahce Istanbul), Alidu Seidu (Stade Rennes), Tariq Lamptey (Brighton & Hove Albion).

Midfielders: Mohammed Kudus (West Ham United), Ernest Nuamah (Olympique Lyon), Salis Abdul Samed (RC Lens), Ibrahim Sulemana (Cagliari Calcio), Edmund Addo (FK Radnicki Nis), Thomas Partey (FC Arsenal), Elisha Owusu ( AJ Auxerre), Abu Francis (Cercle Brugge).

Forwards: Osman Bukari (RS Belgrade), Issahaku Abdul Fatawu (Leicester City, loan from  Sporting CP), Antoine Semenyo (Bournemouth), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace), Ibrahim Osman (FC Nordsjaelland), Kamaldeen Sulemana (FC Southampton), Brandon Thomas-Asante (West Bromwich).

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