FOOTBALL RENAISSANCE IN TIGRAY

By YohannesGebresellsie (Ph.d) Addis Ababa

Football: The beautiful game as it is popularly called is the most popular and the most widely watched sport in the world. It is also a peaceful and descent sport. Everybody anywhere enjoy playing or watching football and every child almost anywhere grows up playing football irrespective of gender,  race, religion, culture and tradition. The Ethiopian people just like other people anywhere love playing o watching football and at times, Ethiopians are crazy of football. Same is true with the people of Tigray just like their brothers and sisters from different parts of Ethiopia.

Tigray has a long tradition of playing the game of football; in fact, Tigray can be called as one of the pioneers of this game in Ethiopia. One may at this point in time note that there were  great teams in Tigray during the fifties and sixties known as TIDEL, Mesebo, Welwalo and Seloda football clubs. Tidel and Mesebo teams represented Tigray within the Ethiopian national football championship and Tidel football club was one of the best and one of the top teams in Ethiopia.  One may also recall Ato Aram Maru who was a member and founder of the team. He made a huge difference in getting the Ethiopian public at large knows that the people of Tigray are Tigrians and not Tigre as they were called by the rest of the country. Aram did a show case, a demonstration in Addis Ababa stadium to accomplish his mission. He said : “We came from Tigray and we are Tigrians , our original name and not Tigreso do not call us Tigre”. Soon after, the public became aware of the issue and started calling Tigray as Tigray with its original name and Tigrians as Tigrians and not as Tigre. The Tidel football club contributed highly to the overall football development in Ethiopia. That proud history was repeated when Guna and Trans football clubs once again represented Tigray and were able  to make it to the premier league few years ago although it was short lived. This time around, the history was once again repeated after many years by the courageous, committed and hard working WELWALO Adigrat University and MEKELLE football clubs. From the start to finish, Welwalo football club stood first in its group from start to finish and was able to make it to the Ethiopian premier league while Mekelle football club stood second from the same group and had to play another game and win to qualify and join the premier league. Mekelle finished its assignment by winning and that helped the club to join the premier league just like its sister club: The Welwalo Adigrat university football club. What a great accomplishment! Generally, this year, Tigray produced great football clubs: Welwalo, Mekelle, Shere and Axum football clubs. All have been great competitors in the national league. After Welwalo and Mekelle, football clubs, Shere was not that much behind either. That means Tigray has shown football renaissance and football has once again came back to Tigray where it truly belongs. All those teams in Tigray are good news to Ethiopia because they will contribute to the overall football development of the nation and at the end of the day, Ethiopia needs a strong national team to compete with the rest of the African regional and continental teams and hopefully even with the global teams as well. Now that Welwalo and Mekelle made it to the premier league, the main agenda has to be to join hands to support and encourage these teams in every way, shape or form. Welwalo Adigrat university, Mekelle, Shere and Axum football clubs all represent Tigray and from them, the Ethiopian national team will eventually benefit enormously in the near future; therefore, we all have to be very proud of and celebrate this truly remarkable achievement and accomplishment irrespective which city they belong to and irrespective which team made it to the premier league. It is simply unfortunate that only one or two teams have to join the premier league, however, I believe any one of them were well placed and well equipped to make it to the premier league; therefore, we have to be very proud and thank their coaches, their teams’ administration staff and most importantly the public at large that gives them full support for bringing back real football to Tigray irrespective which part of Tigray they came from and which club they belong to as long as they represent Tigray. I call that football renaissance in Tigray. All belong to Tigray and we must not discriminate one team from the other. It is true and even quite natural that people support their teams and that is what football is all about; however, when it comes which team gets to the premier league given the pre requisites and qualifications and standards put forward by the Ethiopian football federation, we should be very happy and indeed celebrate having one or two of our clubs were able to make it to the premier league regardless of which city in tigray they came from. I wish all teams in Tigray could make it to the premier league but I believe they too will have their time to make it sooner than later.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to share some ideas on the challenges vis-à-vis our football in Tigray. I believe conditions such as: not enough training coupled with inexperienced and unscientific and at times not qualified coaching staff, unconditional training fields with less sporting and training equipment and/or utilities has exacerbated the football trend of Tigray. This declining trend can be reversed however; and, we can still make it to the top. Here are some suggestions:

  • The Federation must focus on training young generation; young footballers should be sought and be recruited in order to get replacement to former footballers.
  • Experienced and result oriented trainers must be included in advising and in decision making before and during selection because they have a proven track record of winning and they can share their experiences in that regard.
  • There should be a coordinated and collaborated effort between and among all stakeholders based on national interest as opposed to simple individual gains especially on national competitions. Focus must be given to team work.
  • Coaches and trainers must be selected on the basis of proven track record, experience, scientific knowledge of football and not simply appointed.
  • The Federation should look on what is going on in other African countries like Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria etc. It is not bad to learn and to take the good part from them.
  • There should be an open and transparent discussion amongst the Federation, the coaching staff, players and the public at large in order to bring a lasting solution to the challenges facing our football.

Hope this may help

Finally, I would like to say congratulations to the people of Tigray in general and to the people of Adigrat and the Welwalo Adigrat university football club, the people of Mekelle and the Mekelle football club in particular.

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