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Since the Soccer World Cup is currently under way and to continue in the same subject of my previous post, I’m going to talk (or at least try to) about Ethiopia and its relationship with football. When I talk about football I’m referring to the same sport that in America is called Soccer, but I prefer to use the term Football (Futbol in Spanish) since that is the word that is mostly used all over the world for this sport. I have to clarify that I’m no expert, but since I was born in Argentina where football is very popular, I have watched many many matches over the years and I’m quite familiar with the sport and its rules, and how passionate people can become with it. To put an example, during this Football World Cup in Argentina, the government has allowed schools all over the country to stop the classes and let the children watch TV inside the classrooms anytime the national team is playing a match!
I wondered how important was football among Ethiopians, so I did a little research and as I suspected, it’s quite important for them too, they practice and enjoy it, and is probably second in popularity in Ethiopia after athletic field sports at which they excel. Football fame is expected to increase in the country in the next years and the biggest club, St George, is planning to spend quite an amount of money in building a new stadium for over 22,000 spectators. According to FIFA the Ethiopian National Football Team is ranked 121st place, so clearly it is not one of the top of the world, but a lot has to do with lack of money and some internal problems and not because they don’t have good players. For example, Ethiopia had to withdrew its team from the African Nations Championship because of lack of funding. And in 2008, the head of the Ethiopian Football Federation, Dr. Ashebir Woldegiorgis, was fired but he refused to leave which created quite a problem and cancellations of previously arranged matches that prompted the FIFA to suspend Ethiopia’s membership and the national team was kicked out of the qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Finally Dr. Ashebir decided to resign but the damage was already done and Ethiopia lost the chance to have a place at the World Cup.
Anyway, at least Ethiopians have the opportunity to watch all the matches of the World Cup live on national TV for the first time, and screens have been installed at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa so people can enjoy the event.
Outside the country, Ethiopians also enjoy football and participate in matches and tournaments between their different teams. Here in the US, the Ethiopian Sport Federation in North America has been organizing a once a year event since 1984, that takes place in a different city every time. This year it will take place from June 27th to July 3rd 2010 in the city of San Jose, California.
This event is not only about football, but also about Ethiopian culture and there will be food, music, and dance. I recently found out about a free app for the iPhone that was created specially for this annual Ethiopian soccer tournament in North America. It’s called ArifQuas and if you’re interested you can download it here.
I hope that in four years when the new Football World Cup takes place, the Ethiopian team can have a place in the competition.