For the best part of the decade, Jordan Ayew has divided opinion, not on his abilities as player, but on his suitability to the Black Stars. In fact, he has frustrated more times than he has excited fans. His performances worth remembering have been few and far. Rather, Jordan frustrates by holding on to the ball too long, often preferring to go solo rather than to combine with a teammate. There was a moment in Ghana’s 2-2 draw with Germany that readily comes to mind when Jordan’s name comes up. The stage is the World Cup. The setting is Fortaleza where Ghana play Germany, having lost to the United States of America in the opening group stage match. On one of Ghana’s counter breaks, Jordan finds himself in space after cutting inside. In that moment, he has two options; to find Gyan who was unmarked in the box or try to beat Manuel Neuer by shooting. He chooses the latter with a rather tame effort. The chance is gone. Germany rallies back and in typical fashion, Miroslav Klose draws them level. Gyan did not look happy and so did many Ghanaians. There are several other instances where Jordan’s end product has not matched his potential. For a man who made his debut on September 5, 2010, he should have come of age by now.
On September 5th 2019, Jordan will mark 9 years in the Black Stars team. In that time, he has played under four different coaches; Milovan Rajevac, Goran Stevanovic, Avram Grant and Kwesi Appiah – in four different spells, twice as interim and twice as the substantive coach. None of them has managed to decipher his game and get some sort of consistency from him. Yet in his ninth year and under the coach who inspires little belief among fans and journalists and does not seem to exude confidence amongst his players, Jordan’s finest hour came. There is some sort of injustice to it though; to wait this long for such a performance only to have it in a group stage game where the Black Stars could not win. However, when you think of what could have been without Jordan’s contribution, one is resigned to fate. The sense of God’s timing for this suddenly becomes right.
Right. That’s the word that best describes Jordan’s night. The night it all came together for him. He did not put a foot wrong. He held on to the ball when he needed to – and heck did he need to do that often. Jordan Ayew’s ability to hold up and draw his teammates into possession was as magnificent as it was essential. Essential because the supporting cast around him was not great and every time, he had to wait for them to get into space before releasing the ball. Had it been the Jordan of old, that would have been his invitation to waste time on the ball and attempt to dribble his way out of traffic. But like Syrio Forel taught Arya Starke to tell the god of death whenever faced with the menace in the record breaking television series Game of Thrones, Jordan said ‘not today’. He was not laissez-faire or any of that. He forced the issue and was businesslike. The sequence of play that led to his brother – Andre Ayews’ – leveler was picturesque of Jordan’s game. On another night, Jordan would have taken the ball away from goal or tried to shoot at goal from that difficult angle. Instead, he controlled the ball well and set up his captain who fired into the near post with a dint of luck. A goal out of nothing thanks in part to Jordan’s industry. That does not sound familiar but it sounds good. It would be nice to get used to it.
Strikers or forwards feed on service. It does not matter the kind of service they receive. Their job is to make something out of it. Something = Goals. So essentially, they have to score or create the goals once they get the ball. If you are lucky enough, your supporting cast will adjust their game to suit your skill set. If not, well, God be with you. Jordan was not in luck. He is not exactly the sort of striker that thrives with lumping hopeful long balls to or expecting him to run unto the end of crosses or passes. He is just not that type of striker. But that was what Partey and co asked of him. Or Kwesi Appiah, Or whoever thought Jordan could thrive with that. Now that it produced Jordan’s finest night, the coach may claim credit for it. But it worked because of one man; Jordan Ayew. When the pass was hit long – which was a crazy idea considering the fact that Jordan is not a target man in any world– Jordan’s starting position was good enough to give him a chance of winning the aerial duel. When it was hit low, his position and subsequent control were brilliant. His goal that gave Ghana the lead albeit briefly, was the best example of this. In one smart flick, Jordan had left his marker for dead. He was through on goal and hammered home from what was probably his only shot of the game. It was remarkable. No scratch that. It was wonderful. Truly wonderful. Wonderful because nobody would have thought that Jordan would make a goal out of that. Not Partey, the teammate who gave the pass. Not Andre his brother and probably his biggest cheerleader in the team. Not the coach who selected him. Not Michel Dussuyer and his technical bench who may have watched tons of clips of Jordan’s movements and passed on whatever they made of it to their players. Nobody. Absolutely nobody. And it is not because he is not capable of it. But because we have all grown accustomed to seeing anything other than the Jordan that showed up in Ismaili last night. Yet, like Jaime Lannister convinced us all of the greatest character transformation in cinematography only to break Lady Brienne of Tarth’s heart by running back to his incestuous sister, Cersei Lannister, in Game of Thrones, Jordan deceived us all. Or should I say, showed us the part we have so longed to see. He was no longer the embodiment of frustration. Here, he was imperious. And at the risk of repeating myself, this was invaluable given how poor the supporting cast were.
Aside from making more out of the service he received from the supply line, it was his ability to drop deep and support the midfielders that was also impressive. When you consider the fact that Thomas Partey and Mubarak Wakasu, Kwesi Appiah’s two men in the middle were not operating at full capacity, the Black Stars needed someone to offer something different and it was Jordan. When the team needed someone to take pressure off the defense when John Boye was sent off, it was Jordan. Earlier today, Bernard Koku Avle, host of the Citi Breakfast Show mentioned that Jordan was felled 6 times in 20minutes. It may not have been accurate but it was probably more than he counted. Jordan’s dribbling ability was a cause of worry as he was able to draw fouls, create space and combine with teammates.
In the end, he won the CAF man of the match award. No questions asked. Questions will however be asked of the rest of the team. By Cameroun too, who the Black Stars play next. And when they do, we have to hope Jordan answers on our behalf. Well played Jordan. More of the same please.
By Atsu Tamakloe