2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

11 June - 11 July

2010 FIFA World Cup™

Abedi: Africa’s doing it in style

South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup™ ambassador Abedi "Pele" Ayew is one of the greatest and most celebrated African footballers of all time.

One of the first African players to make a major impact on European club football, he was the African Player of the Year a record three-times in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

For all his outstanding personal achievements, however, one honor eluded him in his illustrious career - winning the African Nations Cup on home soil in his native Ghana.

He's 43 now and long retired, but he will be an omnipresent star in his own right as Ghana hosts the 2008 MTN African Nations Cup from January 20-February 10.

And while he won't physically take part in the action on the pitch, he will be well represented on the playing front by his 17-year-old son Andre Ayew.

Like his famous father, Andre is a prolific striker who banged in the goals at junior level and has only just embarked on what promises to be an exciting international career with Ghana's Black Stars.

And also like his father, Andre is making his mark at France's Olympique Marseille, a club where Abedi won four Ligue 1 French titles and made two European Champions League final appearances, including Marseille's famous Champions League win in 1993.

With Ghana excelling at the Black Stars' first FIFA World Cup appearance at Germany 2006 and containing stars such as Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari, as well as exciting youngsters like Andre, he is confident his countrymen will emerge victorious on home soil in African football's showpiece.

"The Nations Cup in Ghana will be contested by great players, great teams and it will be a great occasion. It is the perfect platform for Ghana to show its personality and its football. We've got a great chance to win the trophy at home, but the pressure is going to be huge after Ghana's good performance in Germany," said Pele in an interview with FIFA.com.

With players like Essien, Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o, Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure and Salomon Kalou setting world football alight in recent years at some of the world's biggest clubs, African football is at an all-time high and buoyant as the continent readies itself to host the first FIFA World Cup on African soil in 2010.

And Abedi has been one of a resurgent Africa's most respected and important ambassadors, even appearing at the G8 summit to further the continent's case.

He was a member of the South African delegation in Zurich on 14 May 2004 which presented a powerful and successful bid to FIFA to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, with Abedi making an emotive speech to the FIFA executive that day which strengthened South Africa's case.

"Africa has come a long way in a short time. Africa 20 years ago was populated by people who did not own their own destiny, people didn't have a means to make money, to own their own small companies. So democracy in Africa is young but we are working very, very fast to really achieve a long-term sustainable democracy within our continent," Pele said with great conviction.

And with Africa's first FIFA World Cup now hurtling quickly towards the continent in less than 900 days, Abedi was delighted that the extremely successful 2010 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw in Durban late last year further showcased the continent's many abilities.

"I think it's unbelievable that today all those who didn't have the confidence in us are all very happy. That's why the say this is the power of football, football brings people together. There were a lot of people who didn't believe in us, but today we have the FIFA World Cup on our continent. We have proved to the world that not only can we play the game, but we can host it as well. As an African, you always have to prove things. But the strides we've made in recent times shows that we're on the right track," said Pele.

And he is confident his Ghanaian countrymen will continue to send the right signals to the footballing world by hosting one of the best African Nations Cups ever during the 2008 edition.

"Africa is blessed from 2008 (African Cup of Nations in Ghana) to 2010 Angola (African Cup of Nations) and 2010 (World Cup) South Africa. We can't ask for more than this. We have proved to the world that we are not going to do things the same way as Germany 2006, we are not doing the same as Korea Japan, and we will not be the same as France or America."

"We are hosting the World Cup on the African continent and we have to keep the African vibe and prove to the world that vibe is going to be great. Everything we do will be inclusive of Africa and will be distinctive, like nothing the world has seen before," said Pele.

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