Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Football/Soccer/ and its Long Journey

I believe it’s quite natural to say a few things about football game at this time of the year when the 2010 World Football Cup competition is imminent here in our continent (we’re not accustomed to calling it soccer around here but I’ll keep on using both alternatively for the sake of my various readers' understanding). Football has travelled a very long voyage to reach the phase where it’s now in Africa. While it hasn’t per se arrived at the stage where it should have been, the present status of African football in general and Ethiopian soccer in particular, hasn’t been very well (you well know that I’m an optimist and always look at the glass half-full, although I kin’ of lost enthusiasm with our football teams lately). The reason why many, like me, deflect in seeing foreign soccer, in particular, European soccer, rather than the local ones is, hence, obvious…we all want to see real talents in the “battlefield”. However, our passionate sensations towards the game as a whole haven’t dwindled a bit despite the continual failure of our local national team. In fact, it has really gone beyond one’s expectations. From teenagers to the adults, country folks have just become crazy about football (as far as my memory goes, it wasn’t like this before…has the game become so different from those of the yesteryears to draw as many populace now? Maybe so. Or has the public started using football as escape mechanism from discussing the mounting quandary of the fly-by-night economy and politics? If that’s so, I doubt whether that could serve as the best panacea! Alternatively, could there be some other reasons… God knows! Anyways, everywhere you go in the villages of the metropolis and elsewhere, you'll see little boys and girls) kicking around a football (… girls playing in such large numbers is a new thing, too). And that’s wonderful! One can clearly see the fervent zeal of the kids for soccer. Where the hard cash’s available, the ball will be a real one and so will the field of playing. Otherwise, the ball will be made of plastic bags with strong thread wrapped around it, or occasionally it will be made of crumpled up paper and wrapped worn-out socks. So will the playing fields: dusty, muddy or even the village streets. What’s significant, anyway, is that there’s what’s called a ball and a game to satisfy their enthusiasm for the day. Besides, if there’s anything trendy across the nation these days that could be shared by kids and adults equally, is the DS-TV soccer show. The locations - "public video-houses" where people access these shows have become the “mini-stadiums” to see live international football games. The host country, South Africa, has done a very fantastic job to make the 2010 World Soccer Cup a wonderful moment. Therefore, I don’t want to throw cold water on anything related to this magnificent event, as the feeling is mutual to all of us in the entire continent. However, it has reminded me to travel back and see the journey Ethiopian football has undergone over the years. The Ethiopian national football team, nicknamed The Walya Antelopes (named by one of the endemic animals) is managed by the Ethiopian Football Federation. It was one of only three teams (along with Egypt and Sudan) to participate in the inaugural African Nations Cup in 1957, according to reliable sources. Ethiopia won the competition in 1962 when it was the host, but success has been hard to pin down since the end of the 1960s. Unlike the long-distance running which constitutes world-class legends and that have still had superb scores, like Haile G/Selassie, Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh, and Meseret, (to mention only few) our football hasn’t been successful for a long time. That’s why a lot of people avert from local football and resort to only international soccer games.
All in all, while the rationale for seeing such a large number of people’s mania forestalling altogether to football needs a broader analysis, dodging from real political and economic debates could be one possible reason for people becoming so infatuated in soccer. On the other hand, there could be several other root causes for having unproductive national soccer teams. Although our football has travelled long years, it still needs to aggressively address its problems and find ways forward. In other words, the Ethiopian Football Federation has to start some projects to start preparing our teams for the upcoming world cups. If not for the 2012 World Football Cup in London, we could at least hope ours to go for the next one. May be then we, like the players in the field will dance Diski (the special South African dance that has been created for the 2010 World Cup).

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