Life sometimes provides us with second chances, and football is no different. Some of the game's greatest talents never got to fulfil the ultimate dream of playing in a FIFA World Cup™ match, and Ghana's Abedi Pele certainly falls under that heading. The Black Stars captain never graced the global stage, but today he has a frontline role as the competition prepares to visit Africa for the first time. Joyous and proud, both for himself and the entire continent, he shared his views in an exclusive video interview with FIFA.com.
Chosen to serve as both a FIFA ambassador and assistant to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Preliminary Draw, the 43-year-old was unable to conceal his emotion. "We've been waiting for this moment for almost 100 years and I'm one of the people who has really fought for it to happen," he said. "It's an honour and a pleasure. Along with Nelson Mandela, [South African] President Thabo Mbeki and Danny Jordaan, we all campaigned hard to bring the competition to Africa and we succeeded. It's a little like winning a World Cup with Africa."
Pele is also enthusiastic and confident that the event in 2010 will have wide-ranging consequences for the whole continent. "Beyond football, this competition will bring unity to Africa and give us confidence in ourselves," he said. "We'll showcase our organising skills and the whole world will agree that the World Cup should come to Africa more often."
Like father, like son?
As for the prospects of an African team going all the way, the three-time African Footballer of the Year believes the record books back a local side lifting the Trophy. "Only Brazil have won outside their own continent in the history of the World Cup," he said. "Every continent that has organised the tournament has seen one of its own teams win it. For that reason, I believe Africa's time has come."
Among the continental powers who could prevail, Ghana would have to feature on most people's lists. The Black Stars only made their tournament debut in 2006, but they were the sole African side to survive the group stage and their golden generation will be hoping to make an even more stunning impression next time around.
One player who could help them achieve just that is none other than Abedi's son, Andre Ayew. The young striker is starting to carve out a reputation for himself at Olympique de Marseille - the club where Pele wrote the most glorious chapters of his own career. "The whole country thinks he can become the new Abedi Pele," explained his father. "He will only be 20 in 2010. Let's pray that Ghana qualify so he can play in a World Cup; an opportunity his father never got."
To see the complete FIFA.com video interview with Abedi Pele, click on the link to the right.