Football is a popular sport in Ethiopia. It is well received by every section of society, regardless of age and gender. Much as its follower base it growing, the success of the national team has remained volatile. Lately, the team is in decline. There seems to be no one taking responsibility for this, however. All those key stakeholders seem to have their ways of making excuses for the decline. And this is leaving the sport to even further deterioration.
Football seems to have surged into the veins of people, irrespective of age, creed or gender. Even elderly ladies have turned out to be staunch supporters of European clubs, like Manchester United or Barcelona.
Far from addiction, football becomes sentimental whenever the national squad conducts an international game. It goes without saying that we ask ourselves, “Where is our national football stature heading now”?
For the casual supporter of football, any game between clubs is not much more than leisure. But when it comes to games between nations, the match becomes a sentimental issue. In countries, such as Ethiopia, where defeat is taken as a national embarrassment, football becomes a stake of every freedom and victory loving people.
At a time when the threat and the consequences of drought are preoccupying our thoughts, talking about football could perhaps be considered out of context. But the fact is, we cannot go on hammering on the drought issue, week in and week out. At the present time, we are also gripped with security officers gunning down young Oromo students within the Oromia Region, instead of understanding the contents of the Constitution and abiding by it. Even then, football matches held in Ethiopia cannot be thrown aside from the media.
The performance of the Ethiopia squad in the 38th CECAFA tournament hosted by Ethiopia has left much to be desired when compared with the investment in money, time and other facilities. Unconfirmed reports reveal that the manager, Yohannes Sahle, who was awarded with 50,000 Br, is contemplating returning to the United States as he could not be happy with the way the media is dealing with him.
He is said to have revealed his plans to foreign press sources. He must have realised that all his accreditations which he had submitted during his recruitment, could not be substantiated by his actions since he took over the position of leadership of the national team.
Discouraging the media from calling a spade by its right name is no less an error than trying to find a safe haven and a refuge to put the blame somewhere. Denying the taxpayer information is an act that is no less than maladministration or corruption. These are the main evils that the ruling party is exerting efforts to curb as much as possible.
We should look into the issue from different perspectives. All hold the stakes: from the national football federation, clubs, spectators, football players and managers to the press. We know that none of these stakeholders create footballers that always win. This is not realistic. Clubs have their share of responsibility to prepare and produce capable footballers who are ready to abide by the instructions and training programmes of the clubs and their managers.
We know that good players cannot be produced by just having modern football fields or infrastructure in a few towns, here and there. All the financial investments and layouts mean nothing by themselves. It is the final result that makes all the difference.
These differences are evaluated by the voices of the fans. The voices are expressed by the presence of the fans at the stadium to watch the match. The performance of the national team during the first match was not up to expectation. In fact, many had complained that the 500 Br paid for the first class seats were a waste. Unfortunately, there is nothing to watch beyond the enclave of the field. Even the so much appreciated light train was not in sight.
East African football should not have been difficult to win if the Ethiopian squad was up to the times of Sewnet Bishaw, the former coach. Perhaps some people, including this writer, should apologize for what he had been judged for by his own virtues. Sewnet had elevated us to the extent that we believed the national team was invincible after that historic qualifying success for the CAF after 31 years. He made us want for more history. But that was not to be.
The field was almost vacant at the final match for the third place. The 10,000 dollars award was received with spectators saying they should have spent their precious leisure time elsewhere. They could have either stayed home to watch the English Premier League or pay visits to friends and family.
Yohannes does not seem to have a sustainable strategic plan to cultivate the team to a potential level. Losing a match is typical of the Walias. Any team can lose in as much as it can win any time. But the point is to develop and cultivate the players to have full confidence in themselves.
But with due respect, the coach does not seem to have full confidence in himself, leave alone the players. Degrees, diplomas and other credentials are not worthwhile by themselves. Results have to be achieved.
Yohannes seems to realise this and could not make up his mind whether he had to stay around and aspire to better achievement or not. Coming from a democratic country like the US, where the press is vital and free, it is incomprehensible why he wants to avoid the press even to give constructive ideas by way of free interviews.
The federation on its part cannot sit back, folding its hands, and watch our national football team go down the drain. The recent report that the football federation officials through their negligence and incompetence, had messed up the lot casting programme held in Cairo and the opportunity that resulted in turning down Lucy’s fate to participate in the next tournament. The responsible ones did not even feel accountable to offer an apology for their serious fault.
Apart from that, the federation was found to be irresponsible to follow up the progress of the results of the national squad. The hosting of the CECAFA tournament ought to have made members of FIFA resign from their duties in time and leave the post to capable ones.
Coach Yohannes may be right in blaming some sports reporters. We do not depend on every journalist that is not worth the name of the profession. There could be some who take care to choose which side of their bread is buttered before eating it.
Players themselves are not immune from blame. You wonder why most of them cannot kick or pass the ball accurately to their team mates. What they have been trained to do all this time is not clear. They not only pass the ball to the players of the rival team, but also make passes in their own field instead of crossing over to the other half of the field. They cannot make cross nor do they run fast enough to win ball. Many people think our national football team is moving in reverse gear.
A coach’s duty is not only to train players how to run or kick the ball. He has to be a very good communicator, to approach the players passionately and mould them to develop self-confidence, assume a winning attitude and aspire to victory. That is the minimum responsibility of the coach for sustainability.
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