Icons Of Africa

Skillful Pele was pioneer African in foreign leagues, remains undisputed Africa’s best football player

Skillful Pele was pioneer African in foreign leagues, remains undisputed Africa’s best football player

By Kenyan Weekly Reporter

Abedi Pele is a Ghanian national and Africa’s all time best footballer, remembered for the beauty that surrounded his play and the prowess he exhibited in dribbling the ball while performing as an attacking midfielder; both in African tourneys and overseas where he played club football.

National team

Pele made 73 appearances in the Ghana national team, the Black Stars, scoring a record 33 goals. He also captained Black Stars for six years from 1992 to 1998. During his time here, both as player and as team leader, his brilliance saw Black Stars make mighty strides, playing in big tournaments and lifting cups. Those were ‘Pele days’ – 1980s and 90s. He was part of the Black Stars victory team of 1982 African Cup of Nations.

He also displayed rich talent during the 1992 African Cup of Nations. During this tournament, Abedi placed 3 fantastic goals into the net in matches against Nigeria, Zambia and Congo, earning him the name “African Maradona”. Arguably, his goal against Congo at the quarter finals was quite similar to Diego Maradona’s second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup. However, Ghana lost the battle to Ivory Coast at the penalties of the final match. At the end of it all, Maradona was pronounced the Best Player of the duel.

He captained African All-Stars in their victory over their European counterparts in the Meridian Cup of 1997. He holds a record of most appearances at the Cup of Nations finals with the legendary Roger Milla of Cameroon only coming second after him.

Despite all these team successes, Pele never got a chance to fly Ghana’s flag in any of the World Cups during his time. Today he remains the most adored footballer in Ghana, also among Africa’s best.

Foreign clubs

His foreign club debut came after the 1982 Cup of Nations. ‘Maradona’ played for clubs in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France. The clubs include Al Sadd in Qatar, FFC Zurich in Switzeland, Torino in Italy, AS Dragons FC de l’Oueme in Benin Germany, Chamois Niort in France, Montpellier, Lille, Olympique Marseille and Lyon. His performance at this level was very impactful. For instance, he was part of the force behind club Marseille’s might in the European Champions League of the early 90s. Due to his hard work and determination, he was also named the Best Foreign Player in Serie A while playing for Torino.

Strides and awards

The Ghanaian government appreciated him with the country’s highest honour , Order of the Volta (civill division), for his devout services to the country.

He was often selected in the FIFA ‘All Star’. While with Al Ain Club in the United Arab Emirates (EAE), he got a nomination as among the best foreign players in the UAE.

FIFA Word Player of the Year voting of 1991 and 1992 placed Pele as the first top African footballer.

He won the France Football Magazine African Player of the Year Award thrice, Confederation of African Football Award, twice and was winner of the 1992 BBC African Sports Star of the Year.

Pele was awarded Best Player during the 1992 African Cup of Nations and Man of the Match in Marseille’s European Champions League final win over Milan in 1993.

On record is Pele having participated on many charitable games than any other player in Africa. This has earned him respect in many African nations. His South African and Nigerian fans are fond of wearing t-shirts bearing his name as a show of honour.

After pitch

Pele is a member of FIFA Football Committee and player status committees of both FIFA and CAF.

As a football ambassador, he was nominated in 2001 by Ghanaian government to serve as chairman of the Football Association even though he let the opportunity go to a former Ghanaian coach, with whom Pele said was more experienced than him.

Most recently in June 2016 he was named coach of the star studded World XI team that will take on Kumasi Asante Kotoko and Black Stars in the Vodafone Unity Match 2016. The matches aim at promoting peace and unity before, during and after the upcoming Ghana elections.

Currently, he owns Nania FC – a second division club – with an aim of nurturing young talents in his country.

He made 497 appearances, scoring 157 goals throughout his football career.

Birth and family

Abedi Pele was born on November 5 1964 Kibi, Ghana. He has three sons Ibrahim, Andre, and Jordan, who have also become notable figures in the football scene, having been selected for 2010 FIFA World Cup and played at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. His other child is Imani and wife is Maha Ayew.

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Written by The Kenyan Weekly

The Kenyan Weekly newspaper is a fresh general-news publication published on newsprint once a week.

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