Sports Features Wed, 15 Feb 2012

Ghanaians Should Leave Asamoah Gyan Alone!

In as much as I welcome constructive criticism(s) as a politician, I must admit that some of these criticisms are doing my head-in because of their irritating nature. Though I am not in any relation with the Black Stars’ leading striker Asamoah Gyan, I feel the need to come to his defence with the view to showing Gyan that he is not alone. In spite of the many who might not like him just because he has missed two crucial penalty kicks in the national team, there are millions out there who admire and see him as our role model. Criticism, according to Frank Clark, is like rain, it should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his root. We will therefore be doing a great disservice to our motherland if we fail to factor Frank’s advice in our criticisms of the Black Stars in general and Asamoah Gyan in particular. This is because such destructive criticisms could dampen players’ spirits, ruin their football careers, and also deter potential good footballers from playing for the national teams.

It is a fact that Asamoah Gyan is what he is today because of the opportunity given him by the nation. However, as a Ghanaian, Gyan is also entitled to any goodies that Mother Ghana has for her children. It is in the light of this that I caution a section of the public of their utterances against the Black Stars, especially Prince Tagoe and Asamoah Gyan. As somebody put it, words can make and unmake our future and therefore we should be careful in the choice of words as we share our opinions on the performance of Black Stars in the recent tournament. Every football fan should by now understand that there are three major things in a football match, that is, win, lose, and draw. Besides, in a tournament like AFCON 2012 where 16 teams were involved, there could only be one winner.

Personally, I don’t think the Black Stars and its technical handlers went to this tournament with the view to occupying the 4th position. The aim was to beat every team to clinch the 1st position (win the tournament) to make Ghanaians happy. Similarly, Gyan who hitherto had carried the senior national team on his shoulders single-handed did not intentionally miss the penalty. I remember how the sporting public received the bad news that Gyan might miss the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations tournament because of the injury he picked in a football match at the club level. But against all odds, his doctors worked behind the clock to ensure that Gyan was available for the tourney. In the tournament itself, Gyan’s commitment was not in doubt even though he was half-fit. We were all witnesses to his courage and skills at the tournament and his penalty miss in the 9th minute of the Ghana – Zambia semi-final match cannot be used as a weapon to vilify and crucify him. That to me will be unfair on our part.

In fact, I admire Gyan for his courage and if 10% of Ghanaians could possess and use Gyan’s courage in their fields of endeavour, this country could be a better place than we find ourselves today. In football and in life, we need courageous people like Gyan, people who can take and bear risks at crucial times. Why do you think Gyan took the penalty and not any other player? Was it the case of one-eyed man in the city of the blind? Well, if a penalty miss should make a player unpatriotic, then renowned players like Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, and Didier Drogba would have retired from active football long time ago. Who doesn’t know that Roberto Baggio, Pele, Platini, Maradona, and Zidane all missed crucial penalties in their playing times? These examples seriously reveal the uncertainties in penalty kicks and therefore Asamoah Gyan should rather be commended for his boldness in taking the penalty kick and not be condemned as such.

My observation from all the Black Stars’ matches prior to the semi-final match was that the Stars were not playing an entertaining football. Though the Black Stars produced the needed results to remain on top their group, the Ghanaian football public was against their style of play, especially when they realised the team was struggling to win matches. But the question is; did the opposing teams come to the tournament to entertain the spectators or did they also come to win the cup? It will be out of order if Ghanaians fail to show respect and give credit to the other participating teams who prepared better than us. The Black Stars inability to reach the final could be attributed to many factors but I could see that the team kowtowed to the demand of ‘24 million Ghanaian coaches’ to play an entertaining football against the Zambians. The end result was that the Black Stars lost the all important match by a lone goal, though the team played one of the best games in recent times.

The Black Stars dominated the game against the Zambians right from the start to the end. The defence was good and the midfield marshalled by Derick Boateng was excellent. The attack was not all that bad but the overreliance of Gyan as a lone striker was not the best. This is because any football team that has a defender score two important goals in three matches as against the strikers should expose the team’s weakness in the attacking machinery. Defender Samuel Inkoom, who hitherto played a marvellous game was not at his best on many occasions, especially when he joined the attack with his incisive crossings. The left flank was not kicking because both Addy and Jordan were not natural left wingers, though that should not be an excuse. Striker Asamoah Gyan was always sandwiched by two or three Zambian defenders because they saw Gyan as a threat. Unfortunately, Kwadwo Asamoah who had a free role as a 2nd striker could not direct any of his numerous powerful shots into the net. Why then blame Gyan for not converting a penalty? What about if the penalty was not awarded to the Stars and how could we argue that the 9th minute penalty could decide the game?

Admittedly, the Black Stars’ coach made an unpardonable mistake by his substitutions. Why pull out two most glamorous players of a team which was a goal down, and knowing very well the midfield general Derick Boateng had also been shown the red card? I believe the penalty miss could have served as a motivator for Asamoah Gyan to score at least a goal to atone for his mistake. Though the Black Stars did their best, their best was not enough to bring the cup home. For the team to chalk success in next year’s tournament in South Africa, I suggest among the following;

• The services of two competent local coaches should be sought and be paid well.

• The selection of the players should be transparent and should be based on performance and commitment.

• There should be adequate preparation for the team before the tournament.

• Tactical discipline and unity should be enforced in all our matches.

• The players should make use of set pieces in every game and they should also avoid committing unnecessary fouls to attract cards.

• There should not be any political interference but the players should be motivated enough to give off their best. Remember, the Black Stars players complained bitterly about their winning bonuses right after the 2010 World Cup tournament though the Ghana government received $14million.

• The support from the public should be massive even in the event of a very tough game as name calling will only dampen the spirits of the players.

On the whole, I think Ghana was destined to come home empty-handed in this particular tournament. Judging from the statements and pronouncements made by politicians such as Yaw Boateng Gyan, the National Organiser of the NDC who doubles as a Presidential Staffer, and Koku Anyidohu, the Communications Director at the Presidency, one could only come into the conclusion the NDC had planned to use the Black Stars’ achievement for election 2012. The Almighty God didn’t want that to happen because of our love for the sport. Football still remains our unifying weapon and as such patriotic Ghanaians have been resolute to delink this particular sport from politics. If that was not the case, why would the electorate vote the Kufuor-led NPP administration out of power in 2008? A party that had built 2 new sports stadia (Essipong and Tamale), upgraded 2 old ones (Ohene Djan & Baba Yara stadia), started the Cape Coast stadium, sent Ghana to her maiden World Cup in Germany 2006, hosted the Africa Cup of Nations in 2008 and won a bronze medal. Let’s see our national team players as fellow human beings who make mistakes and motivate them to produce results. Asamoah Gyan, never lose hope for we are solidly behind you!

God bless Ghana! God bless the Black Stars!! God bless Kufuor!!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Hull. UK. 07944309859

“Vision, coupled with persistency, results in true success”

Official blog: (www.katakyie.com) katakyienpp@yahoo.co.uk
Source: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku