It was June 17, 2006. The clocked ticked 68 seconds in Cologne. Asamoah Gyan was seen wheeling away from his colleagues to the right side of Czech Repbulic’s defence.
The technical bench headed by Ratomir Djukovic joined in unison. Part of the stadium went dead, the roof, if there were one would have been completely off at the other end.
Such a surprise to others, such a joy to neutrals and faithfuls.
Then skipper Stephen Appiah had perfectly found Gyan between two Czech defenders with a delightful pass. He used his body to dummy the on rushing Galasek, allowed the ball to bounce before following up with his left foot to strike the ball. Feeble shot, but Petr Cech had no answers.
Ghana’s first ever World Cup goal scored, fastest goal of Germany 2006. It was sheer joy. The pain of 2-0 loss to Italy in the first game forgotten momentarily. Hopes high. We can do it.
Gyan. Did. it. Millions of Ghanaians and Ghanaian football sympathisers in ectasy. The then 18 years old boy had just announced his presence in the biggest football competition. The beginning of Gyan’s never to be forgotten journey as a famous soul on the pitch.
The world appreciated his art, and with that, his brilliance never unnoticed off the grass. His meteoric rise to prominence has not been a stroll on the park, neither did it just come out of the blue. He’s worked twice as hard his previous efforts.
In Egypt 2006, Gyan did not make the AFCON squad due to an injury. He was a forgotten man.
Baba Amando and Enoch Edusei were the ish. Though young and unrefined, his absence was felt. A tournament Ghanaians wouldn’t relish having in the annals of their CAN participation.
Two defeats [against Nigeria and Zimbabwe] one win [over Senegal] in Egypt had tongues wagging failure of a team that dominated the World Cup qualifiers.
People had predicted which of the African countries would exit the World Cup early, Ghana was one of the five countries expected home after their last group game.
Even leadership of the FA were just satisfied enough that the team had qualified; they had no preparations beyond the group stages.
You cannot begrudge for not thinking beyond just participating in just the group stages, neither can you blame football fans who thought the team was there to make the numbers.
As noted earlier, it was a terrible showing in Egypt, and to be in a group that had Italy, Czech Republic and the USA, all ranked above the world cup debutants, hopes of qualifying from the group to the next phase were as low as the belly of a snake.
Just maybe, they forgot one man – Gyan, though inexperienced.
When he made a recovery from his injury and was made a part of the foe at the global stage in Germany, the youngster made his presence count against Czech Republic, a side who were then ranked 2nd in the world. He missed a penalty in that game — in Ghana, it is an offence against nature to miss from 12 yards.
The edge of the knives were well sharpen for the youngster. How dare him miss!
His misses, however, became a routine. He would miss five chances and score one or two. That did not curtail his growth as football icon becoming so reliable on the field.
His fame as a hero and a villain skyrocketed both on and off the pitch.
Meritoriously he has worked for either of the headlines about him. Some say he is the most divisive figure of the Black Stars since making his debut 12 years ago, dwarfing Sulley Muntari who can’t be caged from dividing public opinion.
When Gyan is mentioned, two things come to mind — the gentleman who let down the 54 nations including his motherland in South Africa, the lowest ebb of his career, he would admit, and that man whose name will always be tagged to the disappearance of famous musician Castro and alleged sodomy of Sarah Kwablah.
Starting out as youngster in 2003, Asamoah Gyan was considered one of the best young strikers in Ghana. The goals he racked up at the Italia Serie A at a such tender age had Ghanaians hopeful of the next Anthony Yeboah to lead the Black Stars line.
He did the best he could and still doing his best in that front row. But, in a country with 24 million football coaches, patience is never found in a dictionary of human beings they pay lots of money turning out at biennial tournaments, bottling them when they want, and Gyan, a culprit of that successive failures has never been given the room for peace.
When Ghana hosted the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. The then Udinese striker fired blanks at will – especially against Namibia and Ghanaians went to the extreme of attacking an innocent old lady — Gyan‘s mother for his son’s profligacy.
He couldn’t accept that his mum, the woman who has produced that gentleman Ghanaians love to hate will be treated without mercy. He packed his bag, his brother Baffour Gyan followed, deserting the team and heading home to their mother on January 24 after the Stars unconvincing 1-0 win over Namibia.
He was persuaded by team mates to stay and he did.
Gyan secured a deal to Rennes after the tournament Ghana finished 3rd. Just may be, the critics and verbal attacks made Gyan stronger, and by the end of his stay at Rennes, he became a well known goal scoring figure.
By January 2010, he knew where the net was and his goals in the tournament in Angola propelled Ghana to finish second behind Egypt.
He continued the feat four months later in South Africa when the world cup was hosted in the continent for the first time. The Rennes forward was the hero until the quarter final, but became the villain of Ghana’s failure to reach the last four of the world cup against Uruguay.
The France based striker was considered the man who let Ghana down, the man who let Africa down and out of the competition. He was criticised for not allowing his skipper, Appiah to take the last gasp penalty. All the names and curses on this planet fell on him, but he shoved them off and moved on.
His penalty miss didn’t stop Sunderland from breaking the bank to sign him from Rennes.
On his debut Premier League appearance against Wigan Athletic, he scored. It was the beginning of a never to be forgotten season. He would dance down the lines, the speakers in the stadium would blast with his song that featured his best friend, Castro.
Nine more times he found the back of the net to take his tally to ten as the season came to close.
The following season, Gyan chose money over playing competitive football as Ghanaians claimed when he moved to Al Ain.
His country men and women moaned and groaned over his move, but he continuosly reminded us all that: ‘The fame will always go away once your career is over. The moment you finish playing, people will forget you in a twinkle of an eye. At the end of the day, it is about me and my family and what I believe is good for us’.
The move pushed the cash in the bank while the goals kept flowing for both club and country. His goal per game ratio skyrokected and Ghana became winners of his move to Al Ain.
Personally, Gyan earned laurels and hefty cheques to pay the bills. Nationally, fans of the national team had smiles on their faces as he kept scoring for Black Stars, too.
However, in 2012, he broke hearts; not the hearts of Africa, not the hearts of over a billion people, but the hearts of a West African country who have toiled for years without afcon glory. The hearts over twenty something million people.
Just as he missed from 12 yards in Nelson Mandela’s country, he chose same country to remind his people of the pain he put them through two years earlier.
He didn’t hit the cross bar. No. He took a terrible penalty that was was saved by Kennedy Mweene.
He came under flak when he missed that penalty against eventual winners, Zambia — but this time around, he couldn’t take it anymore and retired from the national team. When he rescinded his decision, he was named captain of the Black Stars.
Two years later, he became Africa’s all-time goalscorer in the history of the world cup. Ghana wore a smock of shame and sold it to the world under his leadership as the Black Stars demanded appearance fees over playing football. Gyan as usual, was at fault. Questions over his leadership qualities were raised.
Not long after that, he lost his best friend, Castro – a hiplife artsist. Ghanaians didn’t sympathise with him, but rather called for his arrest for allegedly using his friend for some ‘dollars’. All this nonsence didn’t wear Gyan down, he kept moving on.
He kept flying.
Shoving off the negativity.
The more he rises, the more negativity comes his way.
Mid this year, there was the sordid story of Gyan ‘raping and sodomising’ a University student.
Despite these, he has never lost the opportunity of reminding the world his strong mentality. One would have thought Asamoah Gyan would be history in today’s Ghana.
One would have thought the constant vilification would kill him emotionally, forcing him to say goodbye to the Black Stars, but Gyan remains a soul to admire.
The headlines continue to open doors of success for him.
He’s been able to stand the test of the time, and now, he will be the 8th highest paid footballer in the world. His goal to be successful in life and his goals on the pitch are as a result of hard-work.
His ability not relent on his success, his continual quest to improve his career opens the gates to the world that no matter what comes your way, you can always rise above the flaws of life.
He’s perfect gentleman who understands what prominence comes with. You either make the headlines for all the right reasons or the wrong ones. Gyan can be classified in both.
The former Liberty man has proven your ability to dust yourself off when you fall is the key to success, and youngsters can learn from the new Chinese League star when the going gets tougher.