The tornado-like controversy blowing after the out-of-the-blue retirement of Ghana Black Stars’ captain, Asamoah Gyan, does not look like settling now.
Ghanaians have been in wonderland since Gyan hastily hung his boots on Monday evening – with barely a month to the African Cup of Nations tournament in Egypt.
The Stars have not won the coveted trophy since 1982 – a whooping 37 years ago – and Gyan had promised to break that disconcerting hoodoo, this term.
Many believed the Egypt mission was possible; others thought otherwise.
However, as Ghanaians were warming up to hear announcement of Coach Kwesi Appiah’s provisional squad for the campaign, the bombshell screamed! The substantive captain, in a press statement, announced his retirement in a manner that shocked the nation.
Whilst thanking the nation for giving him the opportunity to serve, he did not hide reasons for his untimely decision.
Chief among them is Appiah’s intended decision to hand over the captain’s armband to Gyan’s deputy – Andre Dede Ayew – a move the nation’s record goal-scorer perceived as betrayal.
“Upon consultation with my family and team, and as active footballer and captain of the national team, if the decision of the coach is to give the captaincy of the tournament to another player while I am named in the team of the tournament, I wish to recuse myself from the tournament.”
Evidently, Gyan was referring to none other than his deputy, Andre Ayew.
He proceeded: “I also wish to retire from the national team permanently,” the Kayserispor striker, stressed.
Gyan is retiring just ahead of the Africa Nations Cup which kicks off on June 21.
Gyan’s decision has been received with mixed feeling by Ghanaians, some of whom believed the Turkey-based striker had not shown enough maturity.
They claimed that former skipper Stephen Appiah was appointed general captain on his way out, handing the mantle over to his deputy, John Mensah. As is the practice, Mensah later became general captain during his final months with Gyan taking over fully.
Interestingly, it was the same Coach Kwesi Appiah who defied all criticisms to name Gyan substantive skipper of the Black Stars ahead of the 2013 Nations Cup tournament in South Africa.
So, perhaps, Appiah may not have erred naming Ayew his new captain, especially when until a fortnight ago or so, Gyan has seen less or no activity in his Turkish team, for several months.
Truth is, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Appiah’s decision if he thinks the Stars need a new leadership direction for the arduous task ahead.
There is also another school of thought which also criticised the coach for not handling the situation well, insisting that Appiah could have extended the mantle of leadership to Ayew in a more subtle manner.
It argues that in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, even though John Mensah was the official deputy captain, he was always the one spearheading the team because the substantive skipper Stephen Appiah, mostly started from the bench.
This is to ensure that the boat is not rocked.
Much as many may agree with the second option, Gyan may have shown gross immaturity by pinning his retirement to this captaincy issue. It is simply not the way to go.
Having followed Gyan for a while, he had demonstrated over the years that he has a big heart. He is long-suffering, tough and doughty-charactered – and taking this hard decision can only be described simply as unfortunate.
Clearly, it only meant that there is still a bad blood between the two big stars, in spite of their recent meeting with the President of the land, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Nana has some great rapport with the Black Stars, having paid a visit ahead of their AFCON qualifier against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, in which they won 2-0.
Only last month, the two players were invited to the Jubilee House ostensibly to iron out the issues of winning bonuses and other related issues for the team ahead of the 2019 African Cup of Nations.
It emerged that all problems were resolved at the meeting with the President charging the two to unite, focus, think Ghana first, and go to Egypt and bring back the ‘missing’ trophy – to which the players swore to achieve.
Sources close to the Presidency say “the meeting was highly successful as the two players shared jokes with Nana Akufo-Addo, promising him that the trophy was coming to Ghana.”
So, where is the Gyan retirement coming from? Did he call the President to tell him he had failed in his promise? Could he not have handled the situation in a savvier manner?
Indeed, the bitterness with which Gyan’s statement announcing his decision was crafted, leaves much to be desired! This is not the way we expect such colossus of a player to exit – after years of bang-up football exhibition replete with some glorious goals since making his international debut at the age of 17 against Somalia in 2003.
Having become Ghana’s all-time goal scorer in the national team with 51 goals in 106 appearances, played in six Nations Cup (2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017) aside featuring in three World Cups – 2006, 2010 and 2014 – and becoming Africa’s topmost scorer at the Mundial, this is certainly not the way Asamoah Gyan should bid us farewell.
Disciples of Gyan also opine that the marksman has been given a raw deal “after all his service to the nation” – hence his decision to quit.
But bowing out in this rancorous fashion is just too bad! This is not the way to go, Gyan! Perhaps, the Presidency might impress on him to swap horses in midstream. Maybe, just maybe!
Yet, if he decides to stick to his gun, then we can only wish him well and thank him for all the wondrously tremendous time he has had with Ghana football!
BY JOHN VIGAH