I dedicate this blog to Asamoah Gyan who was a hero of the 2010 World Cup. And then six days later he was a prone, helpless wretch.
Gyan is still the first face I see when I think about that tournament. I was fascinated by his high, sculpted cheekbones and his chilly eyes behind hooded lids. He could score without warning and from the most unlikely opportunities. Gyan was the black star of the Black Stars and he was so fucking cool.
On a Saturday, Gyan scored a goal in extra time that took out the USA in the round of 16. He controlled a long ball with his chest, slipped between two USA defenders, stayed upright when Carlos Bocanegra slammed into him and struck the bouncing ball into the net. He was strong, surgical and ice cold.
The following Friday, Ghana and Uruguay were tied with seconds left in extra time. There was a scramble in the Uruguayan box and the keeper got lost. Ghana finally headed the ball toward the net, but Luis Suarez stole it off the line with his hands. So Gyan stepped to the penalty spot and the game was over, I thought. There was no way he would miss because he was just too cool. But he hit the crossbar. A goal would have delivered Ghana to the semifinals.
Later, when Uruguay sent Ghana home on penalty kicks, Gyan lay shattered on the floor with his hands covering his face. His teammates and trainers hoisted him up and shook him back to life.
Gyan is back at the World Cup and this time he’s Ghana’s captain. He’s not plucked and waxed like Ronaldo. He’s not a novela star like Xabi Alonso and most of the Spanish team. He’s not bleached Eurotrash like Marco Reus. He’s not a pixie like Van Persie. He’s just the Taye Diggs of international soccer.
Ultimately, Gyan benefits from that miss against Uruguay. You can’t be the most handsome man in the world’s biggest event AND score two game winners in a row. You especially can’t score one of those winners on a PK in the game’s final play. That’s a scene from a Mighty Ducks movie, not real life.
The law of averages dictates that no one man can be that cool without something terrible happening to balance the scales. Well, Gyan got the terrible shit out of the way with that PK.
During the next month, I will travel around New York City and northern New Jersey to see how we New Yorkers experience the 2014 World Cup. I’m looking for memorable characters so that this year’s Asamoah Gyan will be some guy I meet in a bar near the 7 Train.