And then the telephone rang.
Roger — surnamed Milla — picked up, instantly recognizing the voice at the other end. Paul Biya it was — president of Cameroon, the country he had long retired from representing after years of distinguished service.
Biya — serving the eighth of what is now nearly 37 years in office — had a request that seemed utterly ridiculous: a reunion of the footballer with the Cameroonian national team. Réunion-based Milla was already aged 38 and, in anyone’s books, a spent force. Who would want him in a Cameroon shirt — and at a Fifa World Cup, of all platforms?
In the last few hours, Asamoah Gyan, the man who overtook Milla at Brazil 2014 as Africa’s top-scorer in Mundial history, has found himself in an identical situation — and he has responded just as Milla did. Gyan, though, had been retired for a much shorter period than Milla — a little over a day, in fact — yet, despite circumstances also differing, there could be a similar climax to this drama.
Only last Monday did Gyan release a press statement that announced a decision to end 16 years of national duty. The tone of the letter suggested he’d been pushed — I think not, though — to the periphery by head coach Kwesi Appiah’s wish to pass Gyan’s skipper’s band on to another in exchange for a promotion ‘demotion’ to a general captaincy role. So out of the door he walked, seemingly for good; cue a Biya-esque intervention by the sitting Ghanaian head of state.
“A presidential request is one that cannot be disregarded,” Gyan said in a new statement, published on Wednesday.
“I have taken the request of His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in good faith, and will make myself available for selection by coach Kwasi Appiah.”
Apparently, the president did, and Milla could only heed, even if just out of regard for the former’s office — of course, we do know how that turned out at Italy 1990, don’t we?
So Gyan is back, a fact cemented by his inclusion in the 29-man squad invited provisionally for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He will make the cut – you can count on that – and he will be in Egypt.
The effect of Gyan’s presence in a supposedly fractured camp as the Black Stars warm up to end a 37-year hunt for Afcon glory is yet uncertain — Daily Mail GH’s writers would debate that in a soon-to-be-published piece — but Ghanaians can only hope for the sort of fairytale that Cameroon enjoyed on the global stage just under three decades ago: that of a 30-something-year-old, dance-loving, record-breaking, back-from-the-dead striker starring as his country’s wildest dreams are realized.
For now, though, “we’re back on and on!”
Credit — Daily Mail GH