Ghana’s Black Stars are arguably the best team on the African continent. But proven as they may be in any tournament, strikers of the team have been goal-shy. Indeed, strikers have come under scathing attacks from local football fans. The last time the Black Stars went to the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations precisely in the last edition in Angola, Ghana scored only four goals to reach that stage. Those four goals were scored by two players – Asamoah Gyan and Andre Dede Ayew. While Gyan had three, Ayew had one in Ghana’s last and second group game against the Stallions of Burkina Faso. Gyan’s three goals wove him into the hearts of Ghanaian football fans who had criticised him two years earlier when Ghana hosted the tournament. They claimed he was wasteful in front of goal. The opprobium against Gyan went to the extent that some fans threatened to raze down his family house in Dansoman, Accra. I was very uneasy with this rancour against strikers. Every Tom, Dick and Harry descends on them as if it is their fault when the team loses. That pricked me to find out from Baffour Gyan, member of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations squad and brother of Asamoah Gyan, how he feels as a striker when fans fling all the blame on them.
“Yeah, we feel bad. You can’t ask the ball to enter the net? We play to score?” Baffour told me in such a fury.
But any football fan who watches the Black Stars play may think they are playing for fan. Indisputably, the style of play in Ghana derives from Agor), which means “play”. Agor) is charactersied by dribbling around fields without posts. I think sincerely that this syndrome has eaten so much into most players of Ghanaian national teams that when Ghana even loses a match and played well, the players get the plaudits. Conversely, if they lose a match after playing poorly they come under attack. So one finds players of the national teams dancing Agor) with the ball when they take a lead in any international match. Because of this, I dislike seeing Ghana take a lead in any match. I want to see the Black Stars concede and it pushes them to shine brightest.
I came under severe attack in 2008 at a Black Stars pre-match press conference by then coach Claude Le Roy for pressing upon the team to get more goals against their next opponents Morocco. That was my first ever press conference as a journalist and I wanted to quit after the verbal attack from the Frenchman. Even Michael Essien, who had been watching with the other players from their lodging, walked to me and asked whether I could slot a ball into a net. I did not asnwer but guess those who have seen me play football will be qualified to answer him.
But my point was then on the circumstances under which Ghana went out of the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations and provoking them to score more. Ghana went out becasue of poor or inferior goal aggregate against Senegal. I did not want them to suffer the same fate.
But Ghana has since loved to play much behind the ball and have ignored great strikers the country is endowed with. This has led to an unusual love for Asamoah Gyan, who I still think will fall low the pecking order when it comes to daredevil strikers of Ghana. But this is his time and he has to dance to the music being played for him.
But the unexpected happened!! Coach Goran Stevanovic had the option to drop two players from a 25-man provisional squad he announced on Decmber 15, 2011. Most of us thought he would have dropped one of the many midfielders or defenders. That was rightful thinking because there was no way he was going to take less than three goalkeepers while among the strikers, he was not going to pull the axe on any as Asamoah Gyan was half-fit, Jordan Ayew was quite inexperienced while Prince Tagoe had been inactive at club level with Bursaspor. Plavi had most prolific striker of Glo Premier League, Emmanuel Baffoe and Derek Asamoah, the player who scored Plavi’s last goal prior to that “dropping announcement” as his only fully-fit strikers. Ironically, those were the very two Plavi dropped. I had often tweeted that Ghana are going to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations with three-and-a-half strikers and our hope is that they deliver. Luckily enough, our midfielders in the likes of Agyemang Badu and Dede Ayew can score. But for that doom would have been spelt on us. We may be recording numerous goalless draws. Maybe, and just MAYBE Goran Stevanovic does not know what he is doing!!!