I am writing this piece as part of my current research on management in the MESSA (Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa) taken from the purview of football. This working paper is aligned to my recent involvement in the ManaGlobal Project, a collaborative research project seeking scientific knowledge into the discovery and inter-sectoral mobility of researchers across Europe, Africa and Arab countries.
ManaGlobal is an interdisciplinary research across social scientists which provides opportunities for new insights on how and why businesses and their leaders manage their enterprises in a specific way. The project ensures widening participation amongst policy makers, business enterprises and researchers across the regions.
The project’s main objective is to study and understand the hybridization of business and management practices in African and Arab countries, and to develop a theoretical framework that may help future business leaders and managers to act locally and think globally. Institutional partners include Universite Rennes II (Rennes 2); Institut Des Sciences et Industries du Vivant et de l’envirnment-Agro Paris Tech (AgroParisTech), Universitaet Bielefeld, University of Manchester (UK), and the Abertay University Dundee amongst others.
Evidently three continents are involved in this collaborative effort: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. It is against this backdrop that I profile one of the top Ghanaian footballers and his exploits across these geographies in what I label waves.
The First Wave – Africa
The focus of this wave highlights the career progression of a notable Ghanaian footballer and any football management lessons that could be learned from his exploits since 2003.
At the National level, Asamoah Gyan is the all-time leading goalscorer of the Ghana national team having represented his country at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups. With 6 goals, he is the top African goalscorer in the history of the World Cup.
Besides the FIFA World Cup, Gyan has also represented Ghana at the 2004 Summer Olympics and in seven Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017, helping them finish in third-place in 2008 and runner-up in 2010 and 2015.
In a 2019 Ghana Alert article entitled “2019 Africa Cup of Nations: Not playing Asamoah Gyan was a mistake – Former GFA chief,” Dr Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe, the former Hearts of Oak (a historical Ghanaian football club) board member, argued that the decision to keep Asamoah Gyan on the bench during Ghana’s games at the AFCON tournament contributed to Ghana’s exit from the 2019 event.
At the Club level, Asamoah Gyan began his career in 2003 with Ghanaian Premier League club Liberty Professionals scoring ten goals in sixteen matches.
The Second Wave – Europe
On leaving Liberty Professionals Gyan spent three seasons with Serie A club Udinese via two seasons loan at Modena netting on fifteen occasions in 53 league matches. Five years later in 2008, he joined Ligue 1 club Rennes, netting fourteen times in 48 league matches in just two seasons.
In a further two years in 2010, Gyan joined English Premier League club Sunderland, breaking the club’s transfer record and netting on ten occasions in 34 Premier League matches again in just two seasons. So there you have it Italy (Udinese), France (Rennes) and England (Sunderland).
The Third Wave – Middle East
By 2011, Gyan joined Al Ain in the UAE Pro-League on loan and became the league’s top-goalscorer, before permanently joining the club and helping Al Ain retain the title and continue to dominate the league.
At this time, it is worth highlighting that I left the United Arab Emirates in August 2015 after having been part of the celebration of this African’s exploits in the Middle East, only to now realise that he wasn’t very far behind. Gyan also exited the Middle East the same year and joined Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG in July 2015 for an undisclosed fee that made him one of the world’s best paid football players.
In the 2013–14 season, Gyan scored on 44 occasions in 40 matches with Al Ain.
Not long afterwards he moved on to the Turkish club Kayserispor on 5 July 2017 on a spell that ended 9 August 2019 when he moved to the Indian Super League club side, NorthEast United FC – a club owned and operated by Bollywood actor John Abraham – representing the 8 states of North East India: Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Mizoram.
In my article entitled “Management implications of foreign players in the English Premiership League football,” I pointed out that the English Premier League football provided a unique environment for management decisions and processes at varied levels. I also cautioned that the globalisation of professional sports has received relatively little attention in terms of theory development and management and policy implications. Indeed, West African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana, and to some extent Cameroun, have made their mark on the global stage – albeit in rather fragmented ways, which have consequences for their self-inflicted marginalisation from the global sports (football) arena.
In another recent article entitled “Don’t Cry for Me Africa (and Nigeria) – An unSporting Faux Pas,” I posited that African personality of the year award was a worthy imperative identifying and celebrating unsung heroes in the BRICS context. For example, guest appearances on TV talkshows could serve as a peripheral route while other central routes are pondered.
Only recently, Michael Essien, former Chelsea and Ghana football icon chose his best 11 African players of the decade, a list that included himself, the Nigerian Goalkeeper, as well as Ivorian and Camerounian icons.
This follows the path of a December 2018 article by Tom Gott entitled “Here are the 11 Nigerian players who have scored the most Premier League goals”, ranked top goal scorers such as Jay Jay Okocha with 14 goals, Kelechi Iheanacho and Odion Ighalo with16 goals each, Victor Moses with 20 goals, Victor Anichebe with 26 goals, Obafemi Martins with 28 goals, Peter Odemwingie with 36 goals, Shola Ameobi with 43 goals, Efan Ekoku with 52 goals, Nwankwo Kanu with 54 goals, and Yakubu with an outstanding 95 goals.
My parting question is about the future of African footballers and football management in general – what does life after the “beautiful game” (in the field of play) have to offer?
We have seen some examples from Nigeria and Ghana and the interference of their respective associations in contravention of FIFA ground rules in recent times. For example, “Ghana’s FA ousts national team coaches at all levels.”
Madichie, N. (2009). Management implications of foreign players in the English Premiership League football. Management Decision, 47(1), 24-50.
Madichie, N. (2010). Giving the Beautiful Game a “Pretty” Bad Name: A viewpoint on African Football. African Journal of Business & Economic Research, 5(1), 135-150.
Madichie, N. (2011). Sharjah Football Club (UAE): still kings? Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies, 1(4), 1-9.
Madichie, N. (2013a). Ode to a “million dollar” question: does the future of football lie in the Middle East? Management Decision, 51(9), 1839-1860.
Madichie, N. (2013b). Is the Middle East the land of the future? It is not a given! Foresight, 15(4), 321-333.
Madichie, N. (2016). Re-branding the Nigerian Professional Football League: open play or dead ball? Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 34(2), 256-280.