Two weeks ago, Dr Kofi Amoah, head of the Ghana FA Normalization Committee, spoke about the state of Ghana’s senior national team. He went on about a few things, before zeroing in on the captaincy.
“There is no disagreement between Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan,” he told Metro TV.
“Both players were invited by the president [Nana Akufo-Addo] to the Jubilee House and the problem has been resolved. I was a witnessed to that and both players pledged to give their best to ensure the country win the AFCON in Egypt.”
Note the key part: “…the problem has been resolved”.
So, indeed, there was a problem.
Yes, there was. And there has always been a problem between the two. You know it. I know it.
If you did not believe it, Gyan has just blown the lid on it with his latest decision.
The surprise call
Gyan announced his retirement from the Ghana national team on Monday evening, but like all key moments of his career, it was not a straightforward decision calling time on a storied and goal-filled career since 2003.
In a loaded statement – and one in which he also recused himself from services to the Black Stars at the coming AFCON – the former captain dropped significant hints about the state of the team currently.
Gyan starts his statement by saying that he “cannot pretend to be happy”, and then goes on to explain how he has dedicated himself to the national cause.
But the insightful part comes later in the missive.
“Upon consultation with my family and team, and as an 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.”
The player Gyan speaks of is Andre Ayew.
As deputy captain of the side, Andre’s role is theoretically to assist Gyan in leadership. On the field, and in front of the cameras, they smile, shake hands, and fist-bump.
Yet, the two have been at loggerheads behind the scenes for years.
Papering the cracks
In June 2017, after Gyan got his 50th career national team goal, he was feted on Joy FM’s Personality Profile. Show host, Lexis Bill, asked if he was friends with Andre.
“We are cool. When we meet at the national team camp, we are cool. But it’s not like we will call each other on the phone or I will just call and say hi. We are not on that level.”
It has long been known that there exists a power tussle between himself and Andre. It has never been open, but the friction and politics between the duo has always been there. To the extent that previous presidents of Ghana since the late John Evans Atta Mills have had to quietly impress upon the two, that the team supersedes their ambitions.
Ex-president John Mahama did (calling Andre and his brother to ask them to rescind their decision to retire in February 2013), and current president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has, too – in two separate meetings, once in November 2018, and the other in April.
“It’s true [Andre and I] went to meet the president to discuss with him the problems we have,” Gyan said after the November hook up. “The meeting was very successful but I wouldn’t like to go into details of what was discussed,” he added.
In the end, it is not that Gyan’s retired that is the problem. After all, players come and go. It is the way of life.
Yet, it is the how that will leave a bad taste long after he is gone.
With the announcement coming a day before Ghana is set to name a provisional squad for the AFCON, it sets the tone for an already fractured team to be tested even more.
Gyan leaves a sour taste
Let’s look back, and we see that the transitioning in the Ghana captaincy has been smooth for the better part of the last decade.
Stephen Appiah was made general captain on his way out, handing the band over to John Mensah. Gyan himself became a captain as Mensah was being phased out, with the older player becoming general captain. Ironically, it was Kwesi Appiah who, in his first stint as coach, made the bold call in 2013.
One can sense that with this history, Gyan knows that being made general captain will be a clear indicator that his role will be reduced. And clearly, he does not want that.
Considering how Stephen Appiah and Mensah handled their respective captaincy situations, Gyan’s statement immediately does not look good. Of interest in the statement also is: “I also wish to retire from the national team permanently; not pretending my presence would not fuel the purported undermining the country has seen the captaincy.”
For someone who has been the leader of the side through so much, the entire tone of his letter signals a me-before-the-team stance, and it does seem a bit self-centred.
Must Gyan be captain before he can contribute to the national team? Nobody is bigger than the Black Stars, and this is all regrettable.
In the end, and with 32 days to the AFCON kickoff, who wins in this sordid matter?
Is it Gyan, the legendary striker who has featured in nine major tournaments at senior level and scored in every one of them, breaking and making records along the way?
Is it Kwesi Appiah, the coach yearning to redeem his image by winning a first AFCON for Ghana in 37-years? Andre, the deputy who has never hidden his desire to be captain one day? Who wins?
Nobody wins. Absolutely nobody.