If Ghana is awarded a penalty in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations soccer championship, their captain, Asamoah Gyan, will be nowhere near the 12-yard spot to take the free kick.
The 27-year-old, who missed a penalty that would have put his country in the 2010 World Cup semi-final and last year’s regional tournament final, has refused to kick a penalty because of abuse he was subjected to from fans which led him to take a break from international soccer.
“I have decided not to take a penalty for the national team,” said Gyan, who has been on the national side for the past 10 years. “Most of the biggest stars have missed penalties – Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona – all great players. On a bad day, it can happen. But I said some months back that I wouldn’t take another penalty. Before my mom died (in November), she told me not to take penalties anymore.”
Gyan, who is on loan to Al Ain FC in the United Arab Emirates, missed a penalty with no time remaining at the end of extra time in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals against Uruguay in South Africa. In last year’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against eventual champions Zambia, Gyan again failed to convert a penalty in a 1-0 loss.
Claiming he never fully recovered from the two crucial misses, Gyan said he would step up to take a kick in a penalty shoot-out.
“If I am chosen to take one, why not,” said the 2010 Africa Soccer Player of the Year runner-up.
Gyan was born three years after Ghana won its last regional tournament in Libya in 1982.
“It’s been over 10 years since we won a Cup and sometimes it is a bit frustrating,” said Gyan. “All the Ghanaians are expecting a Cup back home and that can put a bit of pressure on the players. But we know how to do our job. We have played in Europe and on the biggest stages in the world. We have to focus, make sure we qualify from the group stages and then we can think about winning the Cup.”
Ghana plays its first group game against the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday. The four-time champions meet Mali on January 24 and Niger four days later.
The tournament kicks off on Saturday with host country and 1996 winners South Africa meeting Cape Verde, the smallest nation in the tournament, and Angola opposing 1976 winners Morocco.
Malawi, meanwhile, has sacked its entire coaching staff following the country’s failure to qualify for the Nations Cup competition.
Coach Kinnah Phiri has been in charge of the team since 2008. His replacement will be named shortly to prepare the side for an upcoming World Cup qualifier against Namibia in March.