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Football's Forgotten Men

Asamoah Gyan: The Sunderland cult hero turned singer, entrepreneur and tennis player

5:00 PM MYT 22/01/2022
Asamoah Gyan Sunderland Newcastle Premier League 2010-11 GFX
The 36-year-old has not retired but, after a well-travelled and well-remunerated career, he has been investing his time and money in other areas

Casual watchers of the Africa Cup of Nations may have watched Ghana's humiliating early exit at the hands of Comoros and thought, "Hmm, they really could do with Asamoah Gyan up front. I wonder what he's been up to."

The answer? Just about everything.

Gyan has his finger in just about every pie in Ghana, with multiple businesses from boxing promotion and petrol stations, to drinking water and instant noodles.

His most recent passion project has been the promotion of tennis in Ghana, his Baby-Jet Promotions company sponsoring multiple events and tournaments across the country.

He said in September 2020: “Ghanaians don’t follow tennis like before. I’m appealing to the media to give tennis attention a bit.

"Football is the No.1 sport and we respect that. But tennis is my second love, so this is what I am doing now."

His new life on the tennis court endured a rocky start when he had to apologise after he and his brother Baffour Gyan assaulted an opponent during a practice match in October 2020.

However, he remains involved with the sport in Ghana, even winning a doubles tournament alongside his sibling – also a former international footballer – in December last year.

He also attempted to start his own airline, Baby-Jet Airlines, but the Covid-19 pandemic has meant his plans for flight are yet to get off the ground.

Perhaps the striker's most famous extra-curricular activity has been his music career.

He recorded three albums with hiplife musician Castro and the single "African Girls", released at the height of his career in August 2010, was a hit.

You can listen to the song below and it's worthwhile – it's a bop.

Now 36, Gyan has not played since last summer, when he left Ghanaian club Legon Cities after failing to score in five league appearances.

However, in August, he insisted he has not finished with the game yet.

"I have not retired from football. There were some injuries last season, but I am not done playing football," he said in an interview with Kessben FM.

"I can wake up one day and announce my retirement from football but at the moment, I am active.

"People will criticise me but I am only hoping to get back to my normal form and weight. If I am not able to regain my form, then I will call it off.

"I returned to Legon Cities and you could clearly see that things did not go as planned because I have put on weight, but I am giving myself another season and I trust I will be back to my form.

"And if I am on my form, I don't think I will be overlooked. So, regards retirement, not now."

The ability to invest so widely comes from Gyan's playing career, which has seen him ply his trade all over Europe and Asia, scoring goals for any club who could guarantee a sizable pay check at the end of the week.

He joined Udinese from Ghanaian club Liberty Professionals as a teenager and after establishing himself in Europe, first in Serie A and then in Ligue 1 with Rennes, he was snapped up by Sunderland for a club-record £13 million ($17.7m) on the final day of the 2010 summer transfer window thanks in no small part to his performances at the World Cup in South Africa.

Gyan scored two crucial penalties in the group stage to help his country qualify for the knockout stage, then the extra-time winner in the round-of-16 clash with United States.

In the quarter-final, Ghana looked set to become the first African side ever to reach the World Cup semi-finals when Gyan was presented with a last-gasp penalty against Uruguay – given after Luis Suarez had deliberately handled the ball on the goal line.

However, he struck the bar with his spot-kick, and the Black Stars were then beaten in a shootout.

Gyan only spent one season on Wearside but he remains a cult hero on account of his habit for netting key goals, including a 94th-minute equaliser against local rivals Newcastle United.

He netted 11 times in all competitions for Sunderland but left in 2011 left in 2011 when UAE side Al-Ain offered him a loan deal – later made permanent – worth a reported £162,000-a-week ($220,000).

Gyan racked up 123 goals in as many matches for Al-Ain before joining Shanghai SIPG at the height of the Super League's ambitious recruitment of overseas stars.

It's estimated that he earned £23.6m ($32.1m) during his two years in China, which worked out at just under £3m per strike (eight goals in 26 matches).

Stints back in the UAE (Al Ahli), Turkey (Kayserispor) and India North East United were also well remunerated, allowing Gyan to turn his attention to his other interests.

This makes it likely, despite his protestations, that his days taking playing football seriously are long gone.

Rather than featuring on the field, Gyan has been working as a pundit for Supersport TV during the Africa Cup of Nations. He remains among the most notable names from the golden era of Ghanaian football.

A story he posted to his Instagram page of a friend being given a £95 (£130) suitcase for free because the salesman was a Sunderland fan exemplifies how big a star the forward was in his heyday, and how much influence he continues to exert on the African game and beyond.

So, what has Asamoah Gyan been up to recently? Everything, everywhere, and all at once.