3rd time lucky: Dede Ayew wins as Black Stars captain at last

Long before he ever wore the national team’s armband, many had written the script that Andre Ayew was born to lead his country on the football field especially after he so majestically propelled the Black Satellites to Africa’s only U-20 World Cup title in 2009.

The youngster who was handed his Black Stars debut at the ripe young age of 17 back in 2007 by Claude Leroy is now deputy captain of the national team for a reason. Still a budding 25 year old, Dede is playing at his 4th Africa Cup of Nations tournament having made his debut in the competition on home soil in 2008.

He was also in the sides that finished as runners-up at Angola 2010 and 4th at Equatorial Guinea and Gabon 2012 respectively and only missed the last tournament in South Africa due to injury.

Dede was also a star for the Black Stars in the magnificent run to the quarter finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa before showing that he has come of age with two goals in the midst of Ghana’s disappointing Brazil 2014 outing.

So when it came to naming a stand-in captain for the Black Stars in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match day 5 tie in Uganda on 15 November, 2014 in the absence of injured skipper, Asamoah Gyan, the lot fell naturally on the second son of Abedi Pele to follow in the footsteps of his legendary father and lead his country into battle.

It was not a good beginning with the armband though as Ghana suffered the only defeat in 6 AFCON 2015 qualifiers 0-1 to the Cranes at the Mandela National Stadium in Kampala as Ayew got himself injured and ruled out of the next qualifying game against Togo in Tamale four days later.

His second stint as captain of the team was of course in the opening game of the ongoing tournament when Asamoah Gyan was again absent due to illness. The rest as they say is history as Ghana again ended up on the losing side with Dede leading the team following Senegal’s last second victory over the Black Stars in Mongomo.

Thursday February 5, semi final day 2 at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations at the Estadio de Malabo and once again Ayew was trusted with the huge responsibility of captaining his country against a surprise Equatorial Guinea side backed by a vociferous and hostile home support again in the absence of an injured Asamoah Gyan.

This time, the son of Abedi Pele will take the game by the scruff of the neck amid an exhibition of a grand leadership skills. First, Dede allowed kid brother, Jordan to calm his own as well as the nerves of his countrymen by scoring his first goal of the tournament from the penalty spot to put Ghana 1-0 ahead on 42 minutes even though Dede was the Black Stars’ number one penalty taker.

Pep talks, pats on the shoulder, encouragements and fighting all game long, Dede was truly a leader for the Black Stars as he promptly rounded up the scoring himself to hand his country a resounding 3-0 victory and passage into a second Africa Cup final in 4 attempts.

He was replaced after 82 minutes by Frank Acheampong but Dede had ensured he finally won a game leading the national team out and in the process also overtook his legendary father on Ghana’s all-time Africa Cup of Nations top scorers list.

“We want to fight, to try and bring this trophy home. We want to do it for the supporters, for ourselves, for our people and our country,” Ayew said post-match.

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