The Ghanaian striker has arguably been the most high-profile overseas signing in the ISL 2019-20 season.
After scaling uncharted territory last season in the form of the playoffs, NorthEast United FC are bracing themselves for yet another domestic campaign in less than a week’s time. On the occasion of the Media Day organized by the club, Khel Now had the opportunity to have an exclusive chat with the Highlanders’ marquee signing Asamoah Gyan.
Asamoah Gyan has been a household name in African football for many years and so when his signing was announced by the Highlanders, it rightly caused ripples in India. His start to life in the country though, has been nothing but positive, as he bagged his team’s equalizer in the pre-season friendly against the Indian Football Team.
“I reached here about 10 days ago, straight from my holidays of almost two months. Since then, I have been training with the team and then this game and I scored which is a good thing. Honestly, I am not 100% fit and I need to improve my fitness before the first game of the season.”
Thoughts on Choosing India
Having played in six countries before, Gyan spoke on the thought process behind selecting India as his next professional destination. “I have played in a lot of countries around the world and finally, I am here in India at this point in my career. I want to experience the league here and that is a good challenge for me.”
Having finally breached the playoffs hurdle last season, NorthEast United are expecting a similar display this term as well. The former AFC Foreign Player of the Year sounded optimistic about his new teammates going into the campaign.
“Everybody here wants the team to do well this season. We have a young team with some very good Indian players. Although, there are a lot of new additions in the team, we need to work together and know each other as soon as possible, especially me and some of the players who arrived late. We need to catch up physically, tactically to contribute to the team’s target this season. Preparations are going well and we have a good coach, an experienced coach who understands the game well.”
Thoughts On Expectations
The Ghanaian is possibly the most high-profile overseas signing in the league this season, but he downplayed talk of the expectations having any effect on his performances. “This is what I have been through my whole career. Be it for the national team or wherever in the world I have played, there is always the pressure of expectations. Today, if you score two, tomorrow they would want you to do one better. This is in a way a good kind of pressure because it pushes you to do better.”
Watch: Fact-file on Asamoah Gyan
For the majority of last season, NorthEast United were carried by their inspirational captain Bartholomew Ogbeche, who scored half of the team’s goals in the league. However, coming in as a direct replacement for the talismanic Nigerian does not faze Gyan.
“I think these kind of comparisons happen all the time. In my previous clubs, when I myself scored 31-goals-a-season, people expected the next player coming in to have similar performances. He (Ogbeche) played very well for this team in the previous term. Of course, I am here to do well, but I am not going to set myself any personal targets. The aim is to start the season well and if the team does well, I will be happy. I am not here to challenge myself to break somebody’s record. At the end of the season, the people are going to see what I could give to this team.”
Thoughts On The League
Asamoah Gyan, a former captain of the Black Stars feels his new team could really benefit if he and his fellow attackers create enough in the attacking third. “I think from my short experience here, we need to work on creating more chances in the final third. As a striker you live for these opportunities.”
“I think scoring goals here in the ISL won’t be easy, so I need to get up to speed with my fitness to adapt myself with the football here. Hopefully my experience will help me in good stead here and also my goal scoring record over the years speak for themselves,” he added.
Thoughts on Indian Football Team
The Indian football team gave a good account of themselves to Asamoah Gyan, as his first opponents in the country. “I think they are quite good. They know how to possess the ball really well. They also have a good coach. The team has the goods, but like every team, there is room for improvement. I can also see that there are a few really good players in the side who have the quality to play in leagues abroad.”
Hailing from Ghana, who have been regulars in the FIFA World Cup over the years, Asamoah Gyan feels that for India to make it to that stage, football in the country should be given its due.
“From the outside, we all know that Cricket is the #1 sport in the country, but globally football will always be the No. 1 sport. I urge the people to support the beautiful game and the players. When the players get the focus and the recognition they have the confidence to prove themselves. Indian football is on the up. It is improving every year and there is lot of talent here. So, I believe the day is not far when India plays in the World Cup.”
A major talking point in Indian football in recent times has been the issue of players of Indian-origin being allowed to play for the national side. The Ghanaian had this to say on the topic, “Of course, there should be a provision for such players to play for the national team. A number of countries are benefiting from such a system, especially France, who have such an unbelievable squad and are rightly the world champions.”
“There are also many well-known players in the top leagues who can represent India and can bring in a much higher fan-following for the team in the country. The players will bring in a lot of experience and know-how and the coach will have a larger pool of talent to choose from,” he concluded.