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The superman who delivered the west African country from humiliation on previous occasions has suddenly become an antagonistic figure to many Ghanaian football fans

COMMENT
By Kent Mensah

Asamoah Gyan is a name synonymous with both happy and sad moments in Ghanaian football. At one point in time he was a cult hero, but today the 26-year-old is the most hated footballer for many in the west African country.

Local football fans feel that they have had enough of Gyan breaking their hearts. The striker can no longer stand the heat and has called it quits with regards to international football, at least for now. The forward took a difficult but prudent decision at a time when no one expected him to, but it has been embraced by the majority of his critics.

The Al Ain talisman said he needs time to recoup – but what for? He let Ghana, and, for that matter, Africa as a whole, down at the 2010 South Africa World Cup, which could have seen an African nation reaching the semi-finals of the global showpiece for an historic first time.

But Gyan failed, and Ghana missed that opportunity by a whisker. It was a few minutes to the end of proceedings. Uruguay’s Luis Suarez was given his marching orders for blocking a goalbound header with his hand. The only hurdle that stood between Ghana – the only African team left in that tournament - and the last-four berth was to convert from the spot kick.

The under-fire player ballooned his penalty kick into the air and that pre-empted Ghana's exit. The four-time African champions left the tournament with heads high, but the circumstances leading to their exit left them with plenty of regrets and wondering what might have been.  

Ironically, the Baby Jet, as Gyan has been nicknamed in his native country, holds the enviable record as the first Ghanaian player to score for the Black Stars at their first-ever World Cup appearance six years ago in Germany. That strike also happened to go down in history as the fastest in that edition of the tournament.

The stiker's love for the Ghanaian No. 3 jersey has been put through the wringer ever since he joined the senior national side in their desperate hunt for a title, especially at the continental level over the past 30 years and counting.

GHANAIANS' NAIVE ATTITUDE
Shattered | Gyan could not stand missing a penalty at the 2010 World Cup

Gyan has time and again come under Ghanaians' scrutiny because the country lacks attackers and he has seemed to be their only option. The fans cannot accept anything but a top-notch performance from their striking hero. It may sound naive, but traditionally Ghanaians have mastered the art of hyping a player in record speed, while at the same time sticking to the theory that missing a chance that could have brought them glory comes with a huge price to pay. That is the problem which he is experiencing at the moment.

Who said that Ghanaians have forgotten the Gyan who scored against the USA at the 2010 World Cup when a goal was badly needed to better their previous World Cup record of a last-16 finish? It may be wrong to conclude that Ghanaians are unaware of the fact that it was the same marksman who led what has popularly been called “the one-goal project” at the same year's Africa Cup of Nations.

Gyan was a superman in Angola, especially after his header against Nigeria which took them to the final against eventual-winners Egypt. The vociferous fans in the west African country have not forgotten that it was the former Rennes player who rescued them from defeat in a crucial and historic international friendly against the Three Lions of England. His positive moments with the Black Stars have been abundant.

Arguably, Gyan is Ghana’s most experienced and reliable striker at the moment. But he needs to go through a healing process now. He has to give way to try out different players. He has gone through a lot and must take a back seat

THE LAST STRAW

Unfortunately, the same Gyan who can take Ghana to the top also brings them down - an oxymoron and a puzzle that has taken forever to decipher. The player himself is going through a great deal of psychological and emotional discomfort after having missed the greatest chance to put Ghana into the final at the recently-concluded Afcon, a tournament touted as theirs to lose. That was the last straw. Hearts were broken. Tempers flared. Insults rained. Curses were cast. Gyan was crucified.

GYAN's UPS AND DOWNS WITH THE BLACK STARS
2006
Scored Ghana's first World Cup goal
2010
Scored against Afcon hosts Angola and helped the Black Stars into the semi-final
2010
Found the match-winner against Nigeria to send Ghana to the Afcon final
2010
Scored to knock out the USA in the World Cup second round
2010 Missed the greatest opportunity to give Ghana a taste of a World Cup semi-final
2011
Scored an equaliser for the Black Stars in a historic friendly against England
2012
Missed a penalty against Zambia in the semi-final of the 2012 Afcon
2012
Retired from international football
Upon sober reflection and consultation with his family, the happy-go-lucky personality, on loan from Sunderland, took the decision to retire. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but it seems that Gyan would rather take an indefinite break from international duties than hold onto the gargantuan backlash that will have eaten into him emotionally and shattered his confidence completely.

Arguably, Gyan is Ghana’s most experienced and reliable striker at the moment. But he now needs to go through a healing process. He has to give way to try out different players. He has gone through a great deal and must take a back seat. He has made a decision and hopefully, if he decides to return, it will be when he is better-focused.

Gyan brought many smiles to Ghana, yet was the very man who also took them away. He will not only be forever remembered as the player who scored the Black Stars’ first goal at the World Cup, but as the one who proved himself a saviour and, at the same time, the player essentially thwarting their efforts.

Ghana need Gyan and vice versa. Very soon people will start calling for his return. But he must not rush his comeback.

The striker should take as much time as he needs to relegate the past to distant memory and launch a new beginning that can add to the four-time African champions' trophy cabinet.

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