Ethiopia national football team returns to South Africa a year after playing in their first Africa Cup of Nations Final in nearly 30 years. The Walyas made an impact during AFCON 2013 and left indelible memories both on and off the field. Outside of hosts South Africa, Ethiopia had the biggest contingent of fans and everywhere they went they painted the town and stadium in their national colours. Coach Siwnet Bishaw‘s side held the then defending champions Zambia to a thrilling 1-1 draw and won the hearts of many with some simply flowing football. Fast forward a year later and the Walyas are back in South Africa this time to compete in the Orange CAF African Nations Championship and with broadly the same side that played at AFCON, expectations of a second dose of the irresistible Ethiopians are abound in “Mzansi” South Africa
The Ethiopians arrived in Mangaung/Bloemfontein on Friday 10th January and coach Bishaw was beaming with excitement ahead of the CHAN tournament. Ethiopia lost 2-1 in a warm up friendly match played against fellow CHAN finalists, Nigeria played in Abuja on Saturday 4th January 2014. “It was a good outing and l was pleased with my boys’ performance and if it was not for jet-lag l am sure the result would have been different. My boys played really well and if we take that attitude and mentality into the tournament then we will go far. The two goals we conceded were both from throw-ins but we have since worked to rectify that in training” said Bishaw
Dawet Fekadu scored the Walyas’ solitary goal in Abuja and the striker told Cafonline.com that the team is ready. “We have brought most of the players who were here last time and we enjoyed tremendous support from the Ethiopians in South Africa and we did not quite fulfil their expectations but we hope to put that right this time round” said Fekadu.
Minyahil Teshome invokes many varied memories among Ethiopians. It was him who should not have been playing against Botswana in a World Cup qualifier that ended up with Ethiopia losing three points for fielding an ineligible Teshome. He then scored the winning penalty against Rwanda that enabled Ethiopia qualify for CHAN. Recalling the penalty kick thatat led to qualification, Teshome called it any excellent moment for himself, “Coach Sewnet Bishaw gave me that big responsibility. It was scary but as a player you have to take that as an opportunity. Before scoring that penalty some people had the bad feeling after my nightmare with three points deduction matter”.
Upon arrival in Mangaung coach Bishaw told Cafonline.com that, he would have loved to have his influential players with him at CHAN to make a real impact. “ Saladin Said , Addis Hintsa, Shimelis Bekele and Getaneh Kebede are crucial players whose absence has limited what we could achieve here in this tournament but the team l have brought here is ready to fight hard and hey this is football you never know the outcome. You do your best and see how things go and this is a different team from last time we were here but we will definitely be competitive, that l can guarantee to you.” Said coach Bishaw.
The Ethiopian side that was last in South Africa was stronger as coach Bishaw revealed. Midfielders Bekele, and Hintsa are ineligible for CHAN as they play in with Al- Ittihad (Libya) and Al Ahly Shandy (Sudan) respectively. But it is the absence of strikers; Said and Kebede who ply their trade with Wadi Degla (Egypt) and Bidvest Wits (South Africa) respectively that coach Bishaw lamented the most. With your top strikers in the side you certainly increase your chances of succeeding “said Bishaw.
Ethiopia will have to make do with captain Adane Girma. and Dawet Fekadu as the hit-men upfront searching for goals. The Walyas will also have among their ranks teenager (19) Saladin Bargecho from whom the future is said to be bright and at CHAN the defender might just have the stage to announce himself to the continent and world football. Hordes of Ethiopian flags and scorers of fans in their national football team colours have increased on the streets of Mangaung since the arrival of the team. Ethiopia opens its CHAN account against Libya on Monday 13th at Mangaung’s Free Stae Stadium.