Few will forget Asamoah Gyan’s miss from the spot against Uruguay in the quarter-final of the 2010 World Cup, or his tears – a raw current of devastation – after losing the best match of those 2010 finals in Johannesburg. But it’s all smiles now for the Ghana international in UAE as he casts an eye over some potential stars of the future at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“There’s some good talent out there. You can see it plain as day,” Gyan told FIFA.com at the halftime break of Nigeria’s rout of Iran in the Round of 16 at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium. “You can see that we’re improving in Africa. We’ve got so much talent, and these kids can be stars one day. They’re just 16 and 17, trying to build their careers and by what I’ve seen so far, some of these players can go places.”
Gyan has been top scorer in the UAE’s Arabian Gulf League for the last two seasons, since making his much-publicised move from English side Sunderland to 11-time Emirati league champions Al Ain FC. Now 27, he’s played for Udinese in Italy’s Serie A and with French side Rennes while amassing 76 caps for his native Ghana. The 2010 African footballer of the year is also likely to feature in his third straight World Cup for the Black Stars next summer in Brazil. It’s safe to say that Ghana’s top all-time scorer knows a little something about what it takes to reach the top of the football pyramid.
“My move to Al Ain has been great,” a relaxed Gyan added, singing the praises of this desert oasis he now calls home, 150 miles inland from the hustle and bustle of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He wore a wide smile while watching the Nigerians, one of the top attacking teams at these U-17 finals. He laughed and joked with club mate and UAE national team sensation Omar Abdulrahman “I’m enjoying my football again and things are going great with Ghana right now. I’m really just enjoying my life.”
Gyan picked out Nigerian players Kelechi Iheanacho and Taiwo Awoniyi for special praise in the Golden Eaglets team. “Nigeria an Ghana are very close. Of course, we’re rivals in football but we’re brothers in every other way,” said Gyan, who could very well also be talking about fellow west Africans Côte d'Ivoire, who’ve reached through to the quarter-final stage of the competition for the first time in 26 years. “Any time I meet up with Nigerians it’s like meeting up with family. We’re like the same people really. I'm rooting for them.”
With the new UAE season underway, Gyan’s time is limited. He’s busy, after all, zooming up the scorer’s table with Al Ain. His goal from the penalty spot on Thursday helped the side, which also boasts Brazilian winger Michel Bastos and is coached by Quique Sanchez Flores, pull off a dramatic 3-2 home win over Dubai rivals Al Nasr.
“I’ve got a lot of training and team commitments at the moment, said Gyan, who scored in Ghana’s 6-1 demolition of Egypt in the first leg of their crucial play-off for Brazil 2014. “But I want to get back to another one of these games here. I like to support the young ones and they’re pretty good to watch too, I must admit,” added Gyan, taking a genuine interest in these budding teenage stars, who might be a little nervous to know one of Africa’s top players is watching them from up in the stands.