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The 2012/13 Ethiopian Premier League “Meles Zenawi” Cup is now in suspension after a nine-week marathon of fixtures, in some instances, three matches in ten days or less. According to our sources, the games of the season will stay suspended for no less than two months, that is, until the Africa Nations Cup final where Ethiopia is back onto the continent’s biggest sport stage after a thirty one year absence. One of the three CAF founders, Ethiopia is the only representative of East Africa as well. Of the three founding members, Egypt missed the big stage for the first time since its inception and Sudan, of course, was kicked out of the qualification rounds by the valiant Ethiopians. Suspending a league in mid season for two months, I presume, is quite unusual and, if I’m not mistaken, unheard of. Some, including the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF), insist that the suspension was necessary, making the argument that, since it is a “once-in-a-31 year” achievement, the closure is warranted to prepare the team for the big showdown. “We may not make it to the knock- out stages, but we still aren’t going to South Africa as tourists or just to take part. We will be strong contenders in our group. Thus we can afford to sacrifice the two-month suspension,” a football fan, who prefers to remain anonymous, argues. Another fan disagrees, saying that he believes it would be better to detach National team players from the League to train for big events, but let the fixtures go on and give young substitute players the chance and experience they need to build their skills and the confidence to play at that level. He argues that some clubs (who may have three or four players selected) may be at a disadvantage, but it is the lesser evil, compared to what has happened now. “What if we also qualify for the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil? Are we always going to do the same? I think they should rethink their strategy and stop giving lame excuses,” he added.
And such are the heated arguments going the rounds. For the moment, let us stay in full support behind our squad, “The Walias”, but after the tournament due consideration should be given to the problem by the EFF and football experts. As it is, it is quite unfortunate that the concerned parties haven’t been able to anticipate the problem in advance; like thinking along the lines, “What if…?” But I guess that is too much to ask for, for now.