Brothers are keeping it in the family for Marseilles
Eight nights ago, when Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, travelled to watch Olympique Marseille take on Rennes ahead of Marseille's Champions League game in Manchester, he noted the curious coincidence.
In Marseille's line-up at the end of their Ligue 1 win, brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew were occupying positions on either wing. "Snap", thought Ferguson to himself.
The next day, for United versus Arsenal, Ferguson did something similar, unexpectedly fielding the Da Silva twins, Fabio and Rafael, on the left and right flank.
There seemed a good chance that last Tuesday's United-Marseille fixture might see two brothers marking two brothers. In the event, injuries meant that both Ayews and both Da Silvas were not on the pitch at the same time. It may happen one day: these are players with bright futures, not least the Ghanaian Ayews.
Andre Ayew has made a strong case to be OM's player of the season so far and hopes, in the weekend's stand-out clash against Paris Saint-Germain, to take another step towards matching one of his father's many achievements.
Abedi Pele Ayew won the French league twice with Marseille, who are four points behind Ligue 1 leaders Lille. Andre Ayew, known as Dede to his fans and friends, regards his father's many garlands - an African Nations Cup triumph, a European Cup, three African Footballer of the Year awards - with a mixture of admiration and awe.
The son, 21, already has emulated the father by representing Ghana at a World Cup, last summer, where he was named among the tournament's top three young players. Ayew the younger had already triumphed with his country at the Under 20 World Cup in 2009.
Football was always in the genes. Besides Abedi, Dede's uncle, Kwame, won 25 caps for Ghana and played professionally in Serie A, the French top flight and the Portuguese Liga.
Brother Rahim, a fellow member of Ghana's World Cup quarter-finalist squad, is a defender with the prominent Egyptian side Zamalek. Jordan, younger than Dede, has already won senior honours for Ghana's Black Stars.
Being the son of a celebrated sporting father has its advantages. And its pressures.
"It was difficult in many ways in that people were always talking about your dad and what he had done and always wanting to see him in you," Dede said at the home in the south of France which he shares with Jordan.
"But I'd been taught to expect that, and when I decided to try to make a life in football, I knew that would be waiting for me. I knew I wanted to make my own name in it."
He sees himself as a different sort of player from Abedi. He favours roles in the centre of midfield but is usually used by coach Didier Deschamps wide on the left to make use of his hard work, intelligence and excellent delivery of a pass.
He moved around as a child, following his father's career - which went to Serie A and the Bundesliga as well as France. As a teen, he was taken on at Marseille's academy.
He could have played for France but chose Ghana. "Having watched my father play for the Black Stars, that was in my heart," Dede said.
He credits his parents, Abedi and Maha, for keeping a balanced outlook.
"They made sure I was able to be myself. I always had two different ways of seeing things. My father had come from really a very poor background. My mother's was very different; she came from a very 'good' family. I wouldn't say I had everything I wanted as a kid but certainly, we had the most important things and we had parents who advised us, and help us grow up as men."
Though achievements with the Black Stars have come to him young, at Marseille he has known setbacks. He was loaned out last season to Arles-Avignon, then of the second division. He felt reluctant initially but promptly helped Arles-Avignon win promotion, earning the respect of Deschamps, who then made Dede a key part of his plans for the defence of OM's league title.
"He's someone who has given me a lot of confidence," Dede said of Deschamps. "And the main thing is always to be learning. I've been in a lot of pressure matches, at the World Cup for Under 20s, at African Nations Cups, the World Cup. But international football is different." And in France, the cauldron of Marseille against PSG is unique.
Auxerre v Sochaux 10pm
Brest v Lille 10pm
Lorient v St Etienne 10pm
Montpellier v Lens 10pm
Toulouse v Nice 10pm
Valenciennes v Bordeaux 10pm
Lyon v Rennes 10pm
Caen v Arles 8pm
Monaco v Nancy 8pm
Marseille v PSG midnight
Ligue 1 table
Team P W D L GD P
Lille 27 14 10 3 21 52
Rennes 27 14 7 6 11 49
Lyon 27 13 9 5 21 48
Marseille 27 13 9 5 16 48
PSG 27 12 9 6 13 45
Montpellier 27 10 9 8 -3 39
St Etienne 27 10 8 9 2 38
Bordeaux 27 9 10 8 3 37
Lorient 27 10 7 10 1 37
Toulouse 27 11 3 13 -1 36
Sochaux 27 10 5 12 7 35
Brest 27 9 8 10 -3 35
Nice 27 8 9 10 -9 33
Valenciennes 27 7 11 9 2 32
Caen 27 8 8 11 -9 32
Nancy 27 9 5 13 -12 32
Monaco 27 5 14 8 -2 29
Auxerre 27 5 14 8 -4 29
Lens 27 5 10 12 -17 25
Arles 27 1 9 17 -37 12
Published: March 19, 2011 04:00 AM