It was expected that after the President of the Republic, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s interaction with Asamoah Gyan, he would definitely rescind his decision to quit the Black Stars and make himself available for selection for the 2019 AFCON.
After all, he cannot ignore the words of the father of the nation because, who again would one listen to if not the President. People may be skeptical about how Asamoah Gyan’s commitment to the team would be like and how he would feel in camp. What will his relationship with the coach be like? And above all, how would Gyan relate with his new captain, Andre Ayew, after smoking the peace pipe with Coach Kwasi Appiah?
The substance of the issue
Barely a week ago, Asamoah Gyan announced his sudden retirement from the senior national team and asked to be excused from the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in Egypt after being stripped of his captaincy.
Rift between Gyan and Ayew
Coach Appiah could not pretend that he knew nothing about the rift between the then skipper Asamoah Gyan and his deputy, Andre Ayew, and so he should have ensured that prior to such a prestigious tournament when the nation was seeking to redeem its image after successive failed attempts to win the trophy in the past 37 years, nothing negative happened to shift the focus of the players from the main objective.
Obviously, both Gyan and Dede have given of their best to the nation; however, there is a bone of contention between them that every Ghanaian football follower can attest to. Though the root of the problem is not known, superficially, the assumption is that the tussle is over ‘who wears the captain's armband'.
Successive Presidents tried to resolve the issue but to no avail. The late John Evans Atta Mills tried to settle the rift on the quiet by making them believe that the team’s objective should always be supreme.
And at a point when Andre Ayew quit the Black Stars in 2013, former President John Mahama did call Andre and his brother Jordan to ask them to rescind their decision. In the latest case, the sitting President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in two separate meetings in November 2018 and April 2019 impressed upon the duo to cease fire to ensure the progress of the team.
In June 2017, Gyan visited Joy FM after scoring his 50th national team goal. In an interview he was asked about his relationship with his deputy and his response was: “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,” said Gyan.
The president of the Normalisation Committee (NC) of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), Dr Kofi Amoah, in a recent interview with Paul Adom Otchere on Metro TV said, “There is no disagreement between Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan.”
“Both players were invited by the President [Nana Akufo-Addo] to the Jubilee House and the problem has been resolved. I was a witness to that and both players pledged to give of their best to ensure the country wins the AFCON in Egypt.”
All these comments clearly indicated that there was a conflict between the two players.
Is Coach Kwasi Appiah guilty or not guilty?
Knowing there was a conflict, it was absolutely not appropriate for the coach to strip Gyan of the captaincy and hand it over to his perceived rival. That smacked of betrayal, hence Gyan’s decision to retire as contained in a letter released last Monday, May 20, 2019.
“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 for the tournament, I wish to recuse myself from the tournament."
"I also wish to retire from the national team permanently; not pretending my presence would not fuel the purported undermining the country has seen under my captaincy,” Gyan’s letter stated.
The precedent which existed with regard to the Black Stars’ captaincy was quite different from the present scenario.
Richard Kingson was made the general captain while Stephen Appian wore the arm band; Stephen Appiah was made general captain on his way out, handing the band over to John Mensah. Gyan himself became the substantive captain as Mensah was being phased out, making the older player the general captain of the team.
The difference is that, at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Appiah was about quitting the Black Stars. However, he was still the substantive captain, not the general captain, so whenever he came on as a substitute, he was handed the captain’s band, irrespective of whoever wore it, unless he decided otherwise.
In Gyan’s case, he would have been stripped of the band completely as the general captain while still a part of the team. That, he saw perhaps, as a demotion.
“As an active footballer yet to retire, I have been in the team since 2003 and have played with some members of the technical team who were my seniors. Through such periods, there were no times substantive captains were part of a team in a tournament, and had to surrender their captaincy to other players and served in different capacities. Mr Richard Kingson and Stephen Appiah would be in the best position to understand this,” Gyan stated in his first press release.
Even if Coach Kwasi Appiah wanted to make Gyan the general captain, I deem it as a wrong move for him to have communicated that to the player, knowing the conflict between Gyan and Ayew. In football, once the captain is not part of the starting 11, automatically he would not have the captain’s band.
For instance, Paul Pogba and Ashley Young wore the captain’s band when Antonio Valencia was injured for most part of the 2018/2019 season. Also, Carlos Puyol remained the captain while Xavi Hernandez wore the captain’s arm band for Barcelona in 2013/2014.
Clearly, Gyan would not be happy when he seemed to have been demoted while his “rival” assumed his position, especially where there was an indication that the 2019 AFCON was going to be his last tournament for the nation.
It is no doubt that both players should have considered the nation first over themselves and their self-esteem attitude.
However, Coach Appiah should have known better because he was a victim of the same Black Stars captaincy issue when he was stripped of the captain’s band and was replaced by Abedi Ayew Pele (Andre Ayew’s father), prior to the Senegal 1992 Africa Cup of Nations.