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Ayew shining for Ghana at Under-20 World Cup

Fri, 9 Oct 2009 Source: AP

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CAIRO — When your father is an African football legend it's hard to follow in his footsteps, but Ghana's rising star Andre Ayew is now making a name for himself at the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt. The son of Abedi Pele, a three-time African Player of the Year who won the European Cup with Marseille in 1993, Ayew will lead out the Black Satellites in a quarterfinal against South Korea on Friday, just 18 months after the teenager failed to cope with the pressure and expectation of playing for host Ghana at the African Cup of Nations.

"This tournament can really put me in the spotlight," the 19-year-old Ayew said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I hope this competition, and the few months left until the winter break, will be a springboard for me."

By the age of 18, Ayew was playing for Marseille in the Champions League and representing Ghana at the African Cup of Nations. However, he ultimately failed to deliver on his talents and is currently playing on loan for Arles-Avignon in France's second division.

"I was very young and had everything ahead of me, and perhaps I didn't deal with the situation properly," Ayew said. "There was a lot of pressure, that's true, but on the other hand I could have handled things better."

A raw player in 2008, Ayew is thriving as Ghana's Under-20 captain in Egypt.

"I can't say I'm the most experienced player in the world because I'm just 19, but the little I have I try to bring it into the group," Ayew said, when asked what he brought to coach Sallas Tetteh's team.

Playing behind two strikers, Ayew got the equalizer in Tuesday's 2-1 win against South Africa, scored from 25 yards (meters) in the 4-0 rout of England and almost got another with an acrobatic backheel volley.

"That's the freedom I have in my mind now. I wouldn't have tried that (volley) before," Ayew said.

His robust style and galloping runs from deep are a stark contrast to the inhibited winger who struggled with Ghana's Black Stars, or for Marseille two seasons ago.

"I was playing with apprehension, (trying) not to lose the ball," said Ayew, who has 18 full caps. "(Tetteh) gives me the freedom to do things. This freedom helps me to grow, and I need that."

Ayew sprinted over and jumped into Tetteh's arms after scoring against England -- testimony that Tetteh is perhaps channeling the natural talent Ayew inherited from his father.

Abedi Ayew, commonly known as Abedi Pele during his career, was African Footballer of the Year (1991-93) and a pioneer of African football, playing in Switzerland, Germany and France when African players were less widely sought after.

Ayew does not duck questions about his father, but answers them with pride.

"My father is a great man, he advised me a lot. He was there for me during the tough times," said Ayew, who has a younger brother on Marseille's books, and an older brother playing for Zamalek in Cairo.

"I really hope I can impress (my father), because he is counting a lot on me, my older brother, and my younger brother," Ayew said. "I'm not in the same position as a lot of my friends, who have to feed their families. We grew up in comfort, so the pride he has is seeing his children play at the highest level."

When Ayew struggled at Marseille and was loaned to Lorient last season, he was being played out of position. So his father advised him to drop a division with Arles-Avignon, where he would be the team's catalyst rather than a spare part.

With plenty of team scouts watching the Under-20s in Egypt, Ayew knows that a good run for Ghana in the tournament could earn him a move in January's transfer window and he makes no secret of his ambition. "I want to get back to the highest level as quickly as possible," he said.

Source: AP