Ghana forward Asamoah Gyan speaks ahead of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. The striker discusses his first football memory, playing with his older brother and the benefits of street football...
What is your first footballing memory?
It was when I first wore football boots. It was really like a dream come true because before I was playing barefoot in the street. The first time I wore the boots I thought “How am I going to kick the ball very high?”, because when you play with your bare feet you can raise the ball very easily. So the first time I wore soccer boots everything changed.
When did you decide you wanted to be a professional footballer? What helped you make that decision?
I started playing when I was nine, playing on the street with my friends. One day there was a man who was watching us, and he decided “I have to organise a team” – he wanted to set up an under-10s team. So he brought all the kids together and set up a team, named United Kingdom Babies.
What were those games like?
We were playing junior football, we played competitions. We had many areas with under-10s teams, so the set-up is like a junior federation. We went away for games, like the professional league, but it was just at under-10s level.
Was there a point where you knew you were going to make it as a professional footballer?
Yes, I knew it when I was a kid. I didn't want to do anything apart from football. When I was at school, the teacher asked “What do you want to be in future?” Sometimes people didn't know what they wanted to be. You'd see somebody stand up and say “I want to be president”, someone else might say “I want to be a doctor”, but what I always said was “I want to be a football star, I want to play professional football, I want to be a football player”. That was what I was saying because I knew, I knew it would definitely happen.
If you hadn’t been a footballer, what would you have been?
I would have been a musician, a singer, because I had a good voice. I was singing to my parents all the time, at any time. I went to school and learnt a song, then I came home and I started singing the same song to my parents, showing them what we learnt at school. They even thought that I was going to be a musician. But they didn’t see me playing, they just saw the music in me.
Who taught you how to play football?
My older brother, Baffour Gyan. He played for the national team.
How much of an inspiration was your older brother? You obviously learnt from him, but was there competition between the two of you?
Yes, because when he was playing in the top level I was at school and he didn’t want me to make mistakes like he did. We lived in a capital city and he went to school very far outside the capital, so he said “If you want to play football you have to be in the city.” I wanted to go to the same school as him, but he advised me “Don't go there. If you really want to play football, just be in the city”. So I was just following what he was telling me, and that's how I got my chance.
Do you believe the theory that some African players are so powerful and technical because they grow up playing the game in the narrow streets?
I think it's 100% true, because we know where we come from. Most of the players who are born in Africa, that's our problem: we don't have the soccer facilities. Africans never go to academies, they just play on the street and then exhibit their skills there and people see them and try to help them. So I think that soccer in Africa is natural, it's a gift from God.
Do you remember Ghana hosting the Cup of Nations in 2000? Was it exciting for you as a 14-year-old?
Yes! I remember that tournament, we went out against South Africa in the quarter-finals. I remember that game, it was really sad because we were playing at home, I saw most of the stars around.
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