Andre Ayew urges Ghana fans to support team in 2018 qualifiers

Andre Ayew
Ayew is a key figure in the current Ghana team

Ghana forward Andre Ayew says strong support from the fans is vital for the Black Stars' hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Attendances at recent Ghana home games have been poor with fans perceiving the players are focused only on money rather than representing their country.

High-profile rows over players' bonuses have erupted regularly in recent years.

They damaged Ghana's preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012 and 2013, and at the 2014 World Cup the players threatened to boycott training before the Ghana Football Association flew $3m in cash out to the squad in Brazil to resolve the situation.

Ayew is aware there is work to be done to repair the relationship with the fans but feels some of the problems stem from some media reports, which he insists do not always accurately portray the players' attitudes.

"The players have always given 100%," Ayew told BBC Sport. "I don't blame our people in Ghana if they are not sure about that because that's the story they are told, it is the image that some people want to create about us.

"But I always said if we are going to give our explanation and wait for people's speculation we are never going to get over this.

"We should just put it behind us and move forward because we, the players, love the country the same way the fans love the country.

"The players want to keep making the country proud and the only way we can do that is when we see the fans backing us.

"We want a return to the days when teams like Zambia and Egypt came to our home, saw the crowd and their passion and they knew they could not beat us because our supporters were with us."

The 26-year-old, who has played 67 times and scored 11 goals for the Black Stars, believes a new-found unity is required to help the team reach their fourth successive World Cup finals.

Ghana have been drawn in qualification Group E alongside Egypt, Congo and Uganda. Only the five group winners make it to the finals in Russia.

"We should be very careful because it's a very tough group," added Ayew, who plays his club football for English Premier League side Swansea.

"Uganda beat us and drew with us in the 2014 Nations Cup qualifying campaign. Congo are a good team especially at their home and away from home they can be dangerous on the counter-attack. Egypt are of the best African teams - like Ghana, Nigeria and Algeria.

"So it is a very difficult group and in football you cannot underestimate any team."

Ghana's qualification campaign begins in October but Ayew wants to ensure it is not their sole focus.

The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations begins in January in Gabon and the Black Stars are aiming to win the tournament for the first time since 1978.

"We don't have to jump steps. I think right now what is most important is the Nations Cup," said Ayew, the 2011 BBC African Footballer of the Year.

"Afterwards we will try to qualify for the World Cup and we will see what happens."

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