African football legend Asamoah Gyan has hailed the importance of organising the TotalEnergies African Nations Championship (CHAN) every other year and the role it plays in exposing locally based players to international competitions.
The Ghanaian star who is the country’s highest goal scorer with 51 goals expressed deep regret for not having played at the tournament but has words of encouragement for the players that ply their trade in the domestic leagues.
He spoke to CAFOnline in an exclusive interview at the ongoing CHAN edition in Algeria where for the first time 18 teams qualified for the biennial continental competition.
What have you made of this seventh edition of the TotalEnergies CHAN?
This is a huge opportunity for players playing on the continent. The CHAN is a unique competition. It cannot be compared to other competitions. What I like about this tournament is that it shows the state of our local championships.
This is our foundation. If we do not have good domestic championships, we will go nowhere. Thanks to everyone's work, our leagues are competitive. Competitive leagues which give competitive inter-club tournaments including the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederations Cup. There is no secret, everything starts from the local championships.
Is this a tournament you would have liked to participate in?
Absolutely! Unfortunately, when the Confederation of African Football launched CHAN in 2009, I was no longer eligible for this competition. I tell you, between us, I would have caused misfortunes (laughs). Joking aside, look at most of the players who have inscribed their names in world football folklore: George Weah, Sadio Mané, Samuel Eto'o and myself. We were trained on the continent. It is proof that Africa has incredible talent and this talent must be showcased.
What do you think about the development of football on the African continent?
We are on the right track. Admittedly, there is still a lot of work to be done but there is a lot of work to still be done. When I go to Baraki and see the Nelson Mandela Stadium, I am proud, proud of Algeria and above all proud to be African. All countries should take this example.
The development of our football begins with the construction of good infrastructure. Nice high-end stadiums. To return to the Nelson Mandela Stadium, after this CHAN, it will serve the clubs of the city.
It may seem so simple but it is a question of esteem, of respect. When you play in a beautiful stadium, you feel considered, loved and you will see that the difference between the players who play at home and those who play abroad will be thinner and thinner. We will no longer be surprised to see a player who plays in Africa, make great performances in the World Cup.
Which teams surprised you the most?
Good! My native Ghana started the competition rather badly but they recovered well against Sudan in their second game. They reached the quarterfinals. I was pleasantly surprised by Madagascar and Angola. Algeria have been incredible. You can feel that they want to win the tournament at home. The level of this competition is very high and we have seen many surprises.