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What is the difference than that of Ethiopian last nation’s cup final 31 years back in Libya? 3-0 defeat to Nigeria, 1-0 loss to Zambia and a goal less draw with Algeria conceding four goals Ethiopia finished bottom of the group and ultimately eighth out of eight teams. Here in South Africa conceding seven and scored one, bottom of the table with same two defeats and one draw to finish 16th out of sixteen teams. The only difference is Ethiopia scored no goal in Libya and with four goals deficit scoring one and six goals deficit in South Africa.
Forget not it was a team organized after the disappearance of many of the players that brought the cup final dream true. Goal keeper Afework Tenagashaw, winger Aboneh and striker Ermias Wondemu are the few to mention. The then head coach Ethiopian all time greatest player turned coach Mengestu Worku was to build almost a new team in place of those players seeking asylum. Mengestu was so short of players. On the other hand Sewnet Bishaw’s squad including two professionals from Sweden and America had been in camp for two months plus the luxury of three international friendly matches. Swenet the first ever national coach on earth to use all 23 players including the three goal keepers in just three matches remarked before his departure that his players all have same standard he could not announce his best eleven.
What about the morale aspect following the prize money an average of 300000 Birr for each of the players (good enough to buy two mini buses) a brand new automobile worth 270000 Birr that go along with 250000 Birr for the head coach and the likes? Negussie Gebre and company, the then players received Birr 500 (money good enough to buy a table with six chairs) for making in to the cup final.
The big difference than that of the result three decades back lies on the big picture of the sport. Is Ethiopian football to go forward from what ever achieved in South Africa or go underground and wait once again a quarter of a century. The road map to the future of Ethiopian football is going to be the big success of this cup final and what our players achieved in this cup final. Let us go for it an immortal deed that could book Ethiopia a permanent place in world football map. Whoever from the planet comments we are the Barcelona of Africa we all know it is not true and being 16 out of 16 proves that. How come a team without first eleven became a revelation of African football while the likes of yesterday’s footballing nation Burkina Faso thrashed us to 4-0 score line and reach the semi final stage? What about Cape Verde that finished group runner up in its first ever cup of nations appearance? Had we made it to the knock-out stage like Togo or the semi like Burkinabe what would have been said about Ethiopian football?
Let us be realistic and be back to our sense. Back in to the cup final after 31 years is a big, big achievement that the generation to be proud of it and big football history to be told for grand children’s. The players deserve that big prize money and the honor that go along. But let us open our eyes and look the reality. The big hype that Ethiopian football sky rocketed will give us false picture. Whoever does not know where he is hardly knows where he is heading. Let us go back to business at hand and focus on world cup qualifying matches next month. How many of us sure of qualification even leading the group and a return home leg from the group strong side South Africa? I down my hat in honor of Walia.