With the Black Stars set to conclude their Afcon qualifiers against Rwanda, the bigger picture of the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers comes into sharper focus and Benjamin Nketsia of Citi Sports looks at the steady emergence of Andre Ayew as a leader within a team going through turmoil.
It is election year and every crisis situation requires a leader.There is unrest and the stench of suspicion hangs strong in the air when the Black Stars assemble these days.
At the management level and at the level of the playing body.
Vice President of the Ghana Football Association George Afriyie, who is a long time friend of President of the Association, Kwesi Nyantakyi has threatened to resign from his position with only a few weeks to the start of the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers over whispers in the corridors of the FA that he has gone rougue against the organisation.
It so happens that he is the cousin of Sports Minister Nii Lante Vanderpuye who is currently on a crusade to share resources evenly among all Sports Federation in the country while purging the nation’s football of corruption.
This link to the Minister has made him a bulls-eye for his purported detractors and the man believed by many to be GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi’s biggest confidant and most loyal lieutenant has chosen blood over water.
He it was hard to mask the bitterness in his voice when he recounted the current turn of events and his relationship with his boss on Kumasi based station Luv Fm.
“If you understand football politics you will know that a lot of hear say and gossip has gone on all these years.
“I will step down from this position in some time to come because it is painful and insulting when you sacrifice a lot and are not appreciated then its all for nothing.
“I didn’t come into football begging and we were not paupers so I will not look on while people question my integrity,”he lamented.
His words give clear indication of how delicate the situation at the Ghana Football Association is.
However, upper level management crisis will not be the focus of our attention.
At a time when the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Youth and Sports has boldly declared that the practice of paying for business class tickets worth between 4000-8000 USD will not be part of their long term priorities, an unlikely leader has emerged to save the day from within the playing body.
Maybe not so unlikely,if you have seen the charismatic clap of the hands during difficult moments in big games for the Black Stars you will not be surprised if I tell you that Andre Ayew has been laying the foundations and bidding his time.
He acted swiftly and with precision by offering to pay for the plane tickets of seven of his colleagues.
This is not a show of compassion nor is it an act borne from a giving heart, it is an act in sacrifice of goodwill and favour.
There are long standing rumours of factionalism within the Black Stars set up.
The Asamoah Gyan circle and the Andre Ayew circle.
Current substantive captain of the team, Asamoah Gyan, was expected to complete a move to English Championship side Reading and the move that raised eyebrows for all the wrong reasons.
That was before GetReading.com dropped the bomb that Reading FC had pulled the plug on the deal after Gyan failed his medical.
According to the source, he is 8 weeks away from contributing meaningfully to first team action due to a lack of fitness.
Gyan’s representatives have quickly dismissed the failed medical story as the reason for the collapse of the deal describing the story from GetReading.com as complete lies.
Gyan put out a cryptic message via his twitter handle reaffirming his loyalty to Ghana and the Black Stars.
Am proud of my Country, No one can stop me from serving my country.. Ghana made me who I am today.. pic.twitter.com/vBCtpQc9O4
— ASAMOAH GYAN (@ASAMOAH_GYAN3) August 30, 2016
According to his representatives, he failed to come to an agreement with Reading after they suggested that he forfeit the upcoming Afcon which he helped Ghana qualify for.
In the last 18 months, he has suffered a mix of foot, thigh and knee injuries limiting him to only 20 matches for Club side Shanghai SIPG.
He has, however, proven in several situations including in the crucial Afcon 2015 Group stage game when he came off the bench while suffering from Malaria to score the only goal of the game that even at half fitness he is the nation’s most lethal and reliable striker.
But is he still the most influential player within the Black Stars set up or has he slowly been usurped to that spot by his deputy Andre Ayew.
During the time spell that Gyan has struggled with fitness issues and spent a lengthy amount of time nursing his injuries, Andre’s stature has grown steadily both as a player and as a global brand.
Scoring 12 goals from an unorthodox striker’s position earned him a move to London based English Premier League side West Ham for a record fee of 20 million pounds.
What was expected to be a dream debut against Chelsea turned sour after he injured his quadriceps leaving him injured for up to 3 months.
This has not prevented him from staying heavily involved with national team duties.
He has already wished the team good luck ahead of their game against Rwanda and is expected to attend to offer his support as a deputy captain.
It remains unclear how long Andre Ayew will reach into those deep pockets to rescue the team he wishes to rule and he appears to have put himself in a strong position especially with the younger crop coming in.
He has been quick to downplay assertions that he is eager to ascend the throne but his energy and knack for scoring big goals and making big plays automatically puts him in the spot light.
There is the school of thought that believes that he is obsessed with carving a legacy which includes being made captain of the Black Stars just like his legendary father Abedi Pele.
Perhaps he envisions himself as the chosen one ordained to end Ghana’s drought and lead it to that elusive fifth African Cup of nations crown.
He has shown that he understands what it means to exert influence on and off the pitch.
The two captains might never admit that a tussle for supremacy and authority within the Black Stars exists between them but that is not as important as football’s basic requirement: results on the pitch.
Those are the bench marks by which the Black Stars will be rated and the Russia 2018 qualifiers is the ultimate test.