Ex-Ghana international and BA United striker Joseph Agyemang “Nana” Gyau died last Thursday in Ghana at age 78.
According to his son Phillip, a former U.S. national team player and the current head coach of the Howard University men’s team, his father died from colon cancer.
Nana Gyau was a member of the Black Stars squad which won consecutive Africa Cup of Nations Cup titles in 1963 and ’65 and played in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
At those Summer Games, he scored in the first half of a 3-2 victory over Japan and started against Egypt in a quarterfinal defeat.
In 1968, Gyau moved to the United States to play for the Washington Whips in the North American Soccer League’s inaugural season.
A year later, he joined the Washington Darts, who won the American Soccer League championship and then moved to the NASL in 1970.
Gyau, a forward and midfielder, also played for the ASL’s Baltimore Bays and NASL’s Washington Diplomats. Over the years, his teammates included Lincoln Phillips, the godfather of Howard University soccer, and Leroy DeLeon, whose son, Nick, plays for D.C. United.
He earned a degree at the University of Maryland, operated banks and businesses and oversaw a local referees association.
About 20 years ago, Gyau moved back to Ghana, where, through family lineage, he presided as a traditional ruler, or local king, for an area in the western region. He also served as the country’s minister of sport.
Gyau was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer last year. His last trip to the United States was this past winter.
Nana Gyau’s grandson and namesake, Joe, plays for Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga.
His granddaughter, Mia, is a member of the U.S. under-18 women’s national team.
“Without him, none of this is possible,” Phillip said of soccer passing through generations. “He’s the one who taught us to work hard. We learned from him. He was a good man.”
Joe Gyau’s physique and style of play has always reminded Phillip of Nana.
“It’s his grandfather out there,” Phillip said in a Post feature story that appeared two years ago.
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