Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Happiness on high

Soccer fans have every reason to celebrate the victory of the Ethiopian women’s national football team over their Tanzanian side in the African Nation’s Cup qualifier two weeks ago. With the 1-0 win over the Tanzanian side the women’s team got a ticket for the nation’s cup final that is going to be held in Equatorial Guinea.

This was one. The second was the unexpected draw of the men’s side in Benin. Now the national side is close to qualifying for the 2013 African Cup of Nation’s. What is remaining is this: The 14 winners of the first round go to the final round where they will be paired against the 16 teams who competed at the 2012 Nations Cup, also to be played over two legs later this year. The draw is scheduled for July 5, 2012.

For the first time in 31 years, the chance of entering the championship matches looks like it might actually happen. When the national side finished their match goalless in the first leg against Benin in Addis Ababa four weeks ago the hope of qualification was negligible. Few expected that the national side would bounce back in the return leg. But in the second leg held in Cotonou they managed to draw with the Benin team. Adane Girma saved the national side by scoring the equalizer in the second half.

If they succeed in winning their next game, the national side will go to South Africa next year for the first time since the 13th African Nations Cup held in Libya in 1982.

In the case of the women’s national side the 1-0 win in Dar es Salaam sent them directly to the 2012 African women’s championship that will take place in Equatorial Guinea. The Ethiopian women’s national football team joined the list of former African Nations Cup winners with an aggregate 3-1 win. In the first leg held in Addis Ababa the national side won 2 to 1.

The national side’s decisive striker Birtukan Gebrekirstos scored the winner in Dar es Salaam. At the end of that match she said, “This is a great moment in my life. The national side went in to the final means the dream comes true. I am very happy because we all helped our team get this great honor. Our national team won with my lone goal. What is more important is that we reached the final.”

Teklebirhan Ambaye, a private contractor and an engineer by profession, was the first to reward members of the women’s national squad with a total amount of close to half a million birr. It sounds a huge sum. As a fervent supporter of St. George, Teklebirhan has been a football fan for years and now he showed his support for the soccer team and contributing to the development of the sport. Teklebirhan is known for supporting sports in the country, where others should have followed.

Sheikh Mohamed Al Amudin is also expected to give them a big incentive. Quoting the Sheikh a local newspaper reported that when he returned to Addis Ababa he pledged to hand over incentives to the team members.

What is expected from the Ethiopian side, popularly known as Lucy, in Equatorial Guinea is to play good and make progress in the final. This means qualification is not an end by itself.  So the public expects better preparation and better performance in the final. The women’s national team head coach Abraham Teklehaimanot believes that his side will perform well in Equatorial Guinea.

As for the men’s side what is now expected is to complete the qualification series successfully. Reaching this stage is seen as a big achievement. When the national team qualified to take part in the 13th African Nations Cup in Libya they knocked out Guinea in the qualifiers. In the first leg held in Conakry the national side draw 2-2 while in the return leg in Addis Ababa they managed to settle at 1-1. The away goal rule helped them advance in to Libya. By then the head coach was the late Mengistu Worku.

In Libya the national side played three matches in Benghazi. But with two defeats and a draw they were not successful. Ghana lifted the trophy for the fourth time in Tripoli. Since the Libyan 13th edition the national side never participated in the has African Nations Cup final.

The Ethiopian national side lifted the African trophy once in 1962 during the 3rd African Nations Cup where Ethiopia hosted the games. From the first cup in 1957 to 1969 Ethiopia uninterruptedly participated in the nation’s cup.

Ethiopia hosted the African Nations Cup final three times, in 1962, 67 and 76, third, sixth and tenth editions, respectively. In the 6th cup Ethiopia managed to finish fourth while in the 10th edition they were not able even to reach the quarter final stage.

Now the national side has reached this critical stage. The national coach Sewnet Bishaw is confident that his side will go through to the final. In a recent press conference he remarked, “It is difficult to comment about the next match before the July 5 draw. After knowing our opponent it is possible to say something. What I want to say now is we are very well prepared to face any team, whoever it is.”

The head coach further said that this is the time to renew the country’s football history. It will be great for us to qualify for the 2013 South African edition, the coach said.