The indispensable one? – Asamoah Gyan and the Black Stars

Asamoah Gyan knows what heights he wants to complete his football career. He spent the month of August on CAF’s Africa Cup of Nations 2021 draw podium with other African legends including Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o and Morocco’s Rabah Madjer who both have won the Afcon, a trophy that has eluded Gyan. This legendary recognition is greatly honoured by Gyan as he revealed it to TV3.

“I feel honoured being here to represent Ghana in the CAF draw. First of all, I’d like to thank CAF for the recognition because it’s not easy to be at this stage… to be part of this African Cup draw. I feel honoured; I count myself one of the lucky guys out there. So special thanks to CAF for the recognition.”

Gyan though has a grander ambition in mind. The Legon Cities forward has his heart set on a trip to Cameroon, where he hopes to make his last-ever Nations Cup appearance for Ghana.

“I feel like I did my best. In football, anything can happen. I have been closer to it on so many occasions; I went to the final two times. 2015 was our chance but we blew it away but I always believe in destiny. I did what I had to do to make sure Ghana wins it. There might be surprises, anything can happen. I may not be up now but you might see me in January who knows,” Gyan told 3Sports.

It is remarkable to think that he has not won such a tournament before. Gyan was, and still is, one of the most naturally gifted footballers of his generation, a forward of such extraordinary talent that has seen him excel since his youthful days.

Talent will only get you so far, though, not without an accompanying work ethic. We know that Gyan would have lived up beyond his achievements, distracted at times by off the pitch issues. He has found it difficult in putting the negativity around him in silence and focus on his career.

He was smeared with insults during the 2008 AFCON and that nearly sent him forever out of the national team but the intervention of then-president H.E John Agyekum Kuffour and coach Claude le Roy brought him back to life to finish the tournament.

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Scoring just a goal in the tournament – a penalty in the opener against Guinea – Gyan fell out with fans on home soil owing to seeming underwhelming performances. Though he was injured prior to the tournament, Gyan believes this was a transformational period for him and owes Le Roy the commendation.

“I have worked with a lot of great coaches but the coach that brought out that confidence in me was Claude Le Roy. I was not in my top shape and battling injuries at that time but he spoke to me in a nice way and made me understand the game. It was unfortunate I didn’t do much when he was around but the following year when Milovan Rajevac came it manifested as I scored many goals and played well.” He said.

When his mind is focused, though, Gyan has continuously stayed capable of exceptional feats. Since that lost campaign in Ghana, he has enjoyed far more productive stints with the Black Stars. His storm to greatness in the subsequent years made a classical statement over the player’s character and quality and also finding back the love from the people he seemed to have lost to, a calming influence on his behaviour and career.

Yet while there have always been national team managers who have been obsessed with having him lead the attack of the Black Stars, the willingness to take a risk on such talent, the same has not always been true at the international level. From Udinese to Modena, Rennes and Sunderland, Gyan’s reign was only short-lived.

Many fans and journalists had campaigned hard for Gyan to be adored by the nation, as his European club coaches were unmoved —opting to rely as much as possible on players they trusted and preferred. Gyan’s dominance in the Angola 2010 clearly affirmed his indispensable figure in Ghana’s team, as a reliable provider of goals has only strengthened the convictions of those who had disagreed with the forward’s self-inflicted omission en route the 2019 Nations Cup. Gyan had decided not to represent the nation after he was stripped of the captaincy by coach Kwasi Appiah.

After the intervention of President Akuffo Addo and a round table meeting with Andre Ayew, management and the technical team, he immediately reversed the course.  At the tournament itself, the forward couldn’t make a great impact with just two appearances. It was he who forced defender Rami Bedoui to swing over a cross from Mubarak Wakaso for Ghana’s equalizer against Tunisia in the Round of 16.

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And yet since that tournament, Gyan has not been called for any game for the Stars. Not long ago, Head coach Charles Akonnor indicated that he is ready to give every performing player a chance to wear the national colours and to stay true to those words, he is not totally ruling out Gyan.

“Asamoah Gyan has made it clear that he wants to. He’s an experienced man and knows what to do for him to get into the team. Once he does, he’s a Ghanaian and he’s done a marvellous job in the past. So, we’ve had a bit of discussion, he knows what to do. I’m also watching him closely. And not just him but any other person that has the chance to come,” Akonnor said in a zoom presser.

But now, as the 2021 Nations Cup approaches, the manager finds himself with some significant dilemmas upfront. His intended starting strike partnership for the tournament, Jordan Ayew and Andre Ayew, seems a bit listless—with the former in poor form and the latter finding his feet in Qatar with Al Sadd.

Other available options may not be intriguing but they could be a gamble as they have little to prove. Forwards Kwame Opoku and Joseph Esso are doing well in Algeria, Also Karela United’s Diawise Taylor could be relied upon following his exploits in the Ghanaian top-flight. And there is Sturm Graz’s Kelvin Yeboah. The striker has enjoyed an impressive start to the season in Austria with four goals in five games and looks ready to solve the team’s scoring problems.

As it has been with Gyan in the last three years, there are alarms about his fitness, and Akonnor might well wonder how the player’s body would hold up to the physicality of the African game. Some have also asked whether calling him up at this late stage might cause a distraction, as well as sending out a bad signal to players who have been involved throughout the qualifying campaign.

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But daily, the calls for Gyan’s inclusion for Cameroon keeps resonating. There is a divided front and there is a prudent decision to make. Perhaps Kwasi Appiah was right in the first place, and Gyan’s allure would never fade away despite letting his country down on the biggest stage of all. But would it be a shame to let such a gloriously gifted player’s international career fade away, without ever finding African glory? The choice lies with Akonnor and Gyan would respect that.

“C.K. is a good guy, he’s a good coach; a well-trained German coach who can handle pressure so I don’t think pressure is going to be his problem. Maybe it’s going to be good pressure. When you’re up there, there’s a lot of pressure. When you win, of course, people will praise; when you lose there will be bashing. At the end of the day, he knows what is best for him, so what we Ghanaians have to do is just support every decision that he takes,” Gyan added.

Over four decades in the Africa Nations Cup, eight semifinals and three finals with two devastating penalty shootout miseries leave us no option than to secure the trophy this time. Every stone must be turned and with all the ones that have gathered moss, must be cleaned.

Akonnor may not offer Gyan’s request for a return no matter how much the striker may anticipate it.

Gyan has not given up yet on wearing the national colours for one more time but as indicated by Akonnor, he must merit his place.

He may be worth his place in the squad on sporting terms but that does not keep him in oblivion that being enlisted by Ghana goes beyond just performances on the pitch. CK will not temper with the sanity in his team

Gyan is Ghana’s all-time top scorer with 51 goals in 109 internationals and has netted six times in seven AFCON appearances.

Will C.K Akonnor risk the sanity in the team? Is Gyan really worth the call for the continental showdown? Will he be the answer to our proficiency in front of goal and the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle?

This mystery is C.K’s to unravel.

By: Kelvin Owusu Ansah||Ghana