The Olympique Marseille legend shares his thoughts on winning the continental honour.
Former Ghana playmaker Abedi Pele Ayew believes he could have won the African Footballer of the Year award on more than three occasions had he not taken a four-year self-imposed sabbatical from international duty.
The 1982 Africa Cup of Nations winner excused himself from playing for the Black Stars from 1986 to 1990, instead deciding to focus on club football with French sides Mulhouse and Olympique Marseille.
On his return, he would promptly win the continental honour on three straight years from 1991 to 1993.
“I wanted it [African Footballer of the Year award] so badly, even in the ’80s,” Abedi told GTV Sports Plus.
“In ’88 and ’89, I was on fire in France, destroying everybody but I never came to play for the national team.
“I had some personal problems in the national team. From 1986-90, I never came to play for the nation. I refused coming [to play for Ghana]. You know this politics. It has its own things.
“They [Ghana] sent this man – I have forgotten his name – he was in Kotoko. He came to Marseille to see me and see all the executives of the team.
”So, they then told him they have allowed me [stay away from international duty]. At that time, we didn’t have this Fifa rule that you have to automatically play for the national team.”
On his return to international duty, Abedi inspired Ghana to the final of Afcon 1992 in Senegal where he was disappointingly suspended for the climax with Cote D’Ivoire which ended in a penalty shoot-out defeat.
His Ghana comeback seemingly sparked more luck for him at club level as he led Marseille to win the French league back-to-back in 1990-91 and 1991-92. His exploits earned him the BBC African Footballer of the Year award in 1991.
In 1992-93, he went a step further to help the club win the Uefa Champions League.
Abedi also played for Niort, Lille and Lyon in France.
Outside France, the attacker featured for Ghanaian club Real Tamale United (RTU), Qatari side Al Sadd 1982, Swiss side FC Zurich, Beninese fold Dragons l’Oueme, Italian outfit Torino, 1860 Munich in Germany and finally Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, where he retired.
In 2007, he rated fifth in the Top 30 African Footballers in the last 50 years released by Caf.