By Evans Gyamera-Antwi
Many Ghanaians who follow the French Ligue 1, particularly the fortunes of Olympique Marseille and Sochaux, would know those outfits have not fared too well this season. For the worse, the travails of either club have affected brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew respectively.
NOW OR NEVER | Jordan finding things tough at Sochaux
The latter had to leave Marseille for relegation-threatened Sochaux during the winter window in quest of more playing time. Consequently, the Ayews had to part ways, and although it was a pill quite bitter to swallow, the move seemed a good one for Jordan with the 2014 Fifa World Cup fast approaching.
Andre, 23, by far OM's best player prior to picking an injury during Ghana's World Cup qualifying play-off second leg against Egypt, has been unable to regain his pre-injury form and Marseille appear to suffer as a result.
Jordan, his younger sibling, has also not quite hit the heights after joining Sochaux, scoring just a goal in eight matches which brought his tally all season to a meagre two strikes. And even that brief glimmer was rendered void by a red card received in a 2-1 defeat to Monaco shortly thereafter.
Marseille admirably defied all odds last season, finishing second in the league behind mega-rich winners Paris Saint-Germain under Elie Baup, yet players, club officials and supporters would certainly rue the current term which has been an utter disaster. Baup was sacked at the start of December 2013 with outspoken sports director Jose Anigo taking temporary charge. Marseille were knocked out of the Champions League after accumulating zero points in a group comprising Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and Arsenal. It was the club's worst record ever in the elite inter-club competition of Europe. Domestically, Les Phoceens currently sit sixth on the league table, having lost 10 out of 30 matches played.
Prior to the arrival of Anigo, Andre’s club was doing bad alright, but their performances at present are much worse, having lost more games (seven) than won (six).
Ayew himself seems unhappy and recently lashed out at supporters of Marseille for constantly booing the club's players, with jeers particularly aimed at Jeremy Morel when he was replaced in their 1-0 win over Lorient.
"After getting whistled at by his own fans, it hurts not only for himself but for the whole group because we're very united," Ayew told Le10 Sports post-match, adding: "We needed the fans during this period, it was 10 to 15 minutes to full time before we scored. If a player from injury is being whistled at, it makes things complicated.”
As things stand now, Andre and his club don't look like savouring continental action next season with their lackadaisical approach to games, while his kid brother's brief stint with Sochaux is almost likely to end in a demotion should things fail to improve. The atmosphere inside the Stade Velodrome itself has turned very heavy, with evident friction between the younger and older players in the squad.
The new generation of footballers recruited by Anigo is impatient and cocky, lacks respect, and doesn't seem to appreciate the concept of limited playing time its status probably warrants. To illustrate, Mario Lemina, a U-20 World Cup winner with France last year, learned that he would not start in a game earlier this season and allegedly went wild, even breaking a door in the process.
The Ayew brothers will be in a showdown this weekend
On the other hand, key players and members of the old guard, among them Mathieu Valbuena, Nicolas N'Koulou and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, have not delivered either. Arguments between the two camps are regular and quite frequently reported of.
As if the in-fighting, poor form and indiscipline weren't troubling enough, Marseille have also struggled to fill their 48,370-capacity stadium. So bad is the rot that it has left the club seventh in the Ligue 1 in terms of attendance at home games, lagging behind smaller clubs like Guingamp, Bastia and Lorient.
It would not be a surprise, then, should Ghana legend Abedi 'Pele' Ayew's sons decide to leave the Marseille setup for good in the summer. Andre, who has long been touted for a potential exit, recently revealed to L’Equipe: "To me, there were first contacts at the end of last summer.
“There were a lot of talks," he continued, "but after August 20 I decided to stay. I would not change my decision at the last moment. Indeed next June I will have just one year remaining on my contract. So there are questions the club and myself are thinking about. Have I received an offer of an extension? We have not reached that point so far. When the officials will be ready, or if they want to propose anything, we will see.”
Marseille travel on Saturday to Sochaux who lie 19th on the log. With the Ayew brothers likely to go head-to-head, their respective futures with the clubs that own their services - temporarily or long-term - would be more than a little sideshow for interested observers.