I was somewhere at the University of Ghana’s Ajax Park eagerly trying out my legs on what I always talk and write about when I had a text message from a Kenyan friend. The text read “Asamoah Gyan joins UAE club Al-Ain on a one-year loan? That is an odd move for him. Or is he being misled by his agent or what?” My dear Michelle Katami of Kenya’s Radio Jambo asked the same questions several other African soccer lovers might have had on their lips when they heard news of Asamoah Gyan’s move to the United Arab Emirates. My immediate task, when the text message came in,nonetheless, was to help Ghana Sports win the Bank and Media Games at my alma mater. Unfortunately, results did not tilt in our favour as we went out at the group stage. I immediately called some friends, after Ghana Sports’ exit, to find out more about Asamoah Gyan’s move. Lo and behold, it was true! Gyan was going to play in Abu Dhabi. He had signed a one-year loan contract that will earn him over $200,000 per week. Sumptuous deal! But what might have informed the dancing-striker-and-part-time-musician to take such a decision?
Well, the text I had from Kenya was news to me and I replied to that effect. This was because 24 hours before the D-day, Sunderland manager Steve Bruce had come out vehemently to state that since the transfer window was closed, Asa, as he affectionately called the Ghanaian striker, should concentrate on football at the Stadium of Light and stop being distracted by ‘parasites’. Steve Bruce was right! Asa was being distracted! Not by his music but by parasites indeed. During the transfer period, Gyan was reported to have held talks with Turkish sides like Fenerbahce and Galatasaray for possible moves. Indeed, some media organizations even reported that Gyan had signed for the latter. There was an iota of truth in all those rumours as two Black Star players – Dominic Adiyiah and Prince Tagoe – had made moves to the Eastern European country. Adiyiah moved to Turkish Second Division side Karsiyaka while Tagoe moved to Bursaspor. With the closure of the transfer window , most of us didn’t expect the Confederation of African Football’s second-best player for the year 2010 to try out any loan deal. Even if that loan deal would come, most of us were expecting such a move to bigger clubs like Real Madrid ad Bayern Munich as mentioned by Steve Bruce in his media rant the day before Gyan’s move. But Gyan stunned all with a ‘curler’ to move to the Middle East!
Playing in UAE
Well, playing in the United Arab Emirates can have its positives especially in the case of Gyan, who has dipped in form from the lenses of some of us. Honestly, since Gyan’s strike partner at Sunderland, Darren Bent, left the Wearside during the winter transfer period, Gyan had not been himself. He had been under enormous pressure to deliver with mercurial midfielder and Ghanaian-born Danny Welbeck always sidelined through injury. And trust Gyan to falter when he is under pressure! Ghana-Uruguay already in mind?
The first person Gyan mentioned to have made a propitious move to the Abu Dhabi club is Abedi Ayew Pele. Indeed, Pele played for Al-Ain between 1998 and 2000 and was named one of the best foreigners to have graced the UAE League. In his first year, Abedi Pele scored 17 goals from 20 appearances and averagely scored in every one of the 11 matches he played in his second year. Notwithstanding, Al-Ain was the last club of Abedi Ayew Pele in his playing career. He signed for Al-Ain at a time he had even retired from international football. I heard some close pals of Asamoah Gyan also cite Austin Jay Jay Okocha making a move to the Middle East to rejuvenate his career. Okocha went to play for Qatar Sporting Club with a year left of his professional career. He had achieved lots with Bolton Wanderers and had to even settle with Championship side Hull City when he returned to England. Could Gyan be in his last club as was Abedi Pele when he signed for Al-Ain or he has only a year left to play as had Okocha? Gyan is just 25 years and has more years left to challenge for the best in the world! Thus he should not cite these two players as his role models in this move. Gyan should have at the back of his head he has made a move when most thought he could shine best in his playing career especially having familiarized with the English Premier League (EPL).
The only reason I should support Asamoah Gyan in moving to the Middle East is to get out of the EPL limelight and work on himself in a league that is relatively not widely followed. The Gyan I knew in 2005 powering Ghana to greater lengths in the qualification for the 2006 World Cup is not the Gyan I have seen since returning from injury in 2008. I would always remember the exploits of Gyan in Ghana’s 2-0 win over Cape Verde (though he didn’t score), his goals against the Cranes of Uganda and the Leopards of DR Congo securing one vital point each for Ghana in the run-up to the Germany World Cup. Even his towering header in a friendly against Mozambique, within the same period, is still part of the fond memories I hold of Asamoah Gyan. As a result, one cannot frown but to welcome warmly a move to bring back at least snippets of such immaculate skills. But most of the players mentioned above made their moves without incurring the displeasure of their coaches. Consequently, a player like Okocha returned with smiling faces to meet him in England. Gyan’s move did not take that direction! Already, Steve Bruce has vented that Gyan will not get a warm reception if he returns to the Stadium of Light. Most Gyan fans have argued that by the time he returns, Bruce may have left or been sacked. But please let’s be honest, any manager who takes charge at the Wearside (if Bruce is no more) will not trust Gyan and is likely to keep him on the fringes of the team because of the seeming raw deal he has handed Bruce. Indeed, the precedent Gyan has set, which made Steve Bruce adduce other reasons other than football to his move, may affect him in moving to any club in the English Premier League and probably other Ghanaian players into the EPL.
It is remarkable to mention that Sunderland also thought aforehand before considering the move. According to club chairman Niall Quinn, owing to the striker’s intermittent injury and his possible participation in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in January, little will be gained from their record signing this season. Thus, when Al-Ain launched their bid for him they could not turn them down. Al-Ain may count themselves lucky as, I hear, Al Ahly Jedda even wanted to sign Gyan on a permanent deal. I won’t be surprised if Al-Ain buys him outright from Sunderand! It is revealing to mention that Al-Ain and Al Ahly have been chasing Gyan since Ghana played Saudi Arabia in Qatar on 17th November, 2010. But Gyan did not subscribe to their sumptuous deals for football reasons. So now it is clear the player, who scored Ghana’s first ever world cup goal, thinks he has achieved enough to make the sport paramount in any reasons to act.
My prayer is that Gyan returns to Sunderland indeed rejuvenated. I won’t mince words in mentioning that for him to win back the heart of Steve Bruce in particular and English managers in general, to be honest, he has to display incredible performance anytime he wears the national team jersey. That, done at the 2010 World Cup for example, was what attracted Bruce in no small measure to ship him from Stade Rennais to Sunderland in a club record. So a display for Ghana Black Stars holds the future of Gyan and not a display at Al-Ain in a league which is sub-standard.