APPIAH vs GYAN: Who Has Bossed the Black Stars’ Modern History?
No little storm was created when former Ghana skipper Stephen Appiah tweeted a list of the five players he believes have shone brightest for the country’s senior national team since 1992.
Most fans would agree on the worthiness of the names that made the honour roll – Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew, Tony Yeboah, Michael Essien, Richard Kingson, and Appiah himself — but it was, perhaps, the one name left out which sparked the ensuing controversy: Asamoah Gyan, arguably the leading Black Star of his generation.
Now, it all looks just too juicy for us at Ink & Kicks not to wade in and have our say… but with a twist. Read on, then, as two of our writers debate who, between Appiah and Gyan, ranks as the greatest player in the Black Stars’ modern history.
GYAN: A RECORD OF SELFLESSNESS & ENDURING EXCELLENCE
Ghana’s all-time top-scorer?
Ghana’s first-ever scorer at the FIFA World Cup?
The first player ever — anywhere in the world — to score in nine consecutive major tournaments?
Ghana’s only World Cup Golden Ball nominee?
Ghana’s (and Africa’s) highest scorer at the World Cup?
Ghana’s most-capped player?
The fact that Asamoah Gyan holds all of those records, some of which will forever be his, should conclusively settle the argument about which player has had the biggest impact in the Black Stars’ recent past.
Gyan’s omission from Appiah’s list, however, has raised doubts about the Legon Cities forward’s place in the pantheon — doubts that, given the aforementioned accomplishments, shouldn’t come up at all.
Gyan became a starter for the national team around the time he said goodbye to his teens, and continued to lead the line for well over the next decade.
Other players — like Appiah — might have displayed more sparkling leadership traits, but Gyan outshines them all by almost every other metric: consistency, impact, longevity, and reliability.
Gyan, in his prime, was an ever-present, the Black Stars’ go-to man for goals, and the one player of his generation who could be described as truly irreplaceable.
His importance to the national setup meant Gyan was always the first name on every coach’s roster/line-up – and Ghana has had quite a few coaches in his time – regardless of his level of fitness for the assignment(s) at hand.
Even now, when his sun appears to have set, there isn’t a single player currently available to the country who looks a fit for the role Gyan once played. We might never have another of his kind; or maybe we would — just not anytime soon.
APPIAH: A CAPTAIN’S CAPTAIN
For much of Stephen Appiah’s time as a Black Star, Ghana’s national team was a shadow of what it had once been: Africa’s best side.
Success at major international youth tournaments during the nineties didn’t reflect quite as well at senior level as many had hoped, and failure to reach the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations all but confirmed the team’s fall from grace.
That, though, was just about the time Appiah — then with Italian giants Juventus — was coming into his own. A player’s player, captain’s captain, and all-round hero, Appiah led Ghana’s quest to work its way back to the top of African football.
The long-standing objective, FIFA World Cup qualification, was achieved in 2005. The Black Stars’ technical direction changed a few times during that successful two-year campaign, but Appiah proved the ultimate stabilising force, the cornerstone of a formidable midfield and a rallying point for the entire team.
With all his strength and with all his heart, Appiah dragged the team to the Mundial in Germany where, of course, he starred. Ghana might have won no silverware to decorate his sterling stewardship — that wait for a major trophy soon enters a fourth decade — but what peak Appiah gave Ghana was just as valuable and longed-for.
Often, he’d be the man to StepApp step up and deliver in the big moments, consistently offering the sort of decisive leadership without which the team had struggled for years. For sheer impact, then, Appiah remains, truly, unparalleled.