THE BIG INTERVIEW: Andre Ayew
15th August 2015
When pundits or supporters use the phrase 'football is in his blood', it's generally football jargon, a metaphor to symbolise the impact the sport has had on the subject's life.
It's not factual. When a football commentator once claimed Zinedine Zidane had football in his blood during a match between France and Portugal, he didn't literally mean the Real Madrid legend had microscopic spheres adorned with the France '98 World Cup logo rolling down his veins.
But for Swansea City's new African superstar Andre Ayew, the otherwise metaphoric statement contains more truth than the usual hyperbole.
An icon of the Ghana national team and 2011's BBC African Footballer of the Year, Ayew's phenomenal talent is inherent.
The 25-year-old is the son of Abedi Ayew - renowned in the football world as Abedi Pele - a pioneer of African football in Europe and regarded by many football experts as the greatest African footballer of all time.
"When you are lucky to have a dad like that, you try to learn from him and take his advice," smiles Ayew during his first interview with Jack Magazine.
"He was a great player - three times Africa's best - and won the Champions League as well as all the other trophies that exist."
Following his retirement from the game, Ayew's father remains involved in football. At present he owns Ghanaian second division side Nania FC, while he has also been involved in various charity work across Africa.
But despite his obvious love of the game, Abedi never urged his son - and indeed Andre's two brothers Jordan and Ibrahim, who also became professional players - to follow in his footsteps.
"I ask him for advice because he is somebody who knows football very well, but when I was younger he never pushed me to play," admits Ayew.
"When we were younger, he didn't really want us to play football. He wanted us to focus on school and education and to make sure we had respect for people when we were growing up. Those were his priorities."
Nevertheless, the sons of a three-time African Footballer of the Year were never likely to do anything else.
"It was always about football for me," chuckles Ayew. "As we grew up, we started playing the game more and liked it, and luckily became professional players.
"Both my brothers are footballers, but we are lucky to have had great people around us. We are very close and have always been united. We will stay united until the end of our lives.
"It's really important to have that in a family. We are close, and we all grew up with a winning mentality."
Ayew's family values meant that a move to Swansea City was the perfect switch for him.
"I have realised that it's a different way of living and working," he adds. "It's like one family here, and I hope it stays like that.
"It's important to stay like one family in the good moments, but especially in the bad moments too.
"Everything is going really well. The guys have been good to me and have helped me settle in really quickly.
"It's not easy to move to a new club and a new country, but I've come into a good squad, and I'm trying to do my bit to add to that."
A transfer to a new club and a new country is an even stranger experience for Ayew than most other footballers.
Born in France to Ghanaian parents, Ayew began his career in Ghana, playing for Nania, where he made his debut at the frighteningly tender age of 14.
In 2005, he signed with his father's former club Marseille, and spent two seasons in the famous club's youth academy before making his senior debut during the 2007-08 season.
After loan spells with Lorient and Aries-Avignon, Ayew became an integral part of the Marseille first-team, and remained a key component for several years up until his transfer to Swansea this summer.
Upon his final appearance for the French giants, Ayew's attachment to the club was signified in a teary send off as he waved goodbye to the Marseille supporters at the Stade Velodorme.
Despite being a target for a number of big-hitting European clubs over the years, Ayew admits he wasn't sure whether he would ever leave Marseille.
"I had the opportunity to move around and to go to different clubs in the past, but I always chose to stay at Marseille," insists the humble Ayew.
"It's my club and they helped me grow, so I didn't know if I would ever leave them.
"But it got to the point where I needed to make a decision and, for me, it was good to come to a club like Swansea, where they play good football, the squad is together and united and have great ambition."
When it was announced that Ayew had put pen-to-paper on a four-year deal with the Swans, the deal was described by many football experts as one of the most exciting pieces of business during this transfer window.
His talent described by French journalist Philippe Auclair as "Champions League class" and his capture as a "huge statement of intent" by the Liberty club.
But Ayew insists that, despite the hype, he tries not to take such praise too seriously.
"Merci! If that's what people say, then I'm ok with that," Ayew laughs when asked what he makes of the reception surrounding his arrival.
"But for me, what is really important is what happens on the pitch. It's things that are nice to hear, but I don't look at it that way.
"The important thing and the real issue is to prove it on the pitch and to show the manager, the Chairman and the guys that they can trust me and are right to believe in me and to get me here."
A quick look at Ayew's record though, and it's easy to understand the excitement growing among Swansea City and, indeed, Premier League stakeholders.
At the age of 25, Ayew has already won 62 caps for Ghana, played in two World Cups and four African Cup of Nations.
He's played in the Champions League and in big competitions for Marseille from the age of 17, but Ayew believes his biggest challenge is yet to come.
"I learnt a lot from playing in big competitions," he adds. "I was under a lot of pressure from an early age, but thanks to God I managed to come through that to make me become a better person and a better player.
"But for me the biggest challenge is to make it in the Premier League. I think this is the best league, and I wanted to come and play with and against the best players.
"Hopefully my experiences can help Swansea now, but there are also guys here with a lot of experience of the Premier League, which I don't have.
"We will try to help each other and blend our experiences to hopefully achieve some great things together."
But Ayew is focussing on the short term when posed with the question: what can the Swans achieve this season after such a successful previous campaign?
"We will see," he responds calmly. "What is important is to start the season well, stay in the top 10, then see if we can do better.
"We know there are big names in front of us, but we just need to do our job. We will give our best for the supporters.
"I've heard a lot of great things about them - the guys have been telling me great things about the fans, and I can't wait to play in front of them."