ADDIS ABABA (HAN) May 27.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. My experiences in Ethiopia have been, in a word, wonderful. I quickly discovered I share a common thread with the majority of the people here: that of our national pride and a love for the beautiful game of soccer (futbol).
I have oft said the game of futbol shrinks the world; it is a common language spoken in just about every corner. This has been no different in Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa I enjoyed getting to know several different coaches, including those who coach female teams, as well as coaching educators and technical directors of the Ethiopian Football Federation.
I do have to say that the most intriguing coach I met was Messerat Manni, the only woman head coach of a men’s premier team in all of Africa. My sneaking suspicion is that she is in the minority globally as well. She was very instrumental in helping me run the clinics in Addis. In Addis, we had 2 days of clinics including 126 players. It was a real treat to be able to instruct these players and enjoy their enthusiasm and willingness to work hard, have fun, and be coached by a foreign woman.
It was no different on our 2nd stop in Dire Dawa where I ran field sessions over 2 days for 60 players and was able to meet with Messerat’s men’s team of 25 and give a lecture on sports medicine and team psychology. All were well received and the interactions with the players had a very positive impact on me.
Donations from Nike in partnership with the U.S. Embassy Addis, in addition to 200 soccer balls from USAID were delivered at each stop and the gratefulness was visible and palpable.
In addition to soccer clinics, I was able to speak with 2 groups in Dire Dawa. First were the 11th grade girls at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School. It was fun to be able to see these motivated students hear my thoughts about educational opportunities and empowerment for females. I gave a similar talk at Jude’s private English school at the Abdul Kadir mosque. For these girls and boys their socio-economic standing makes education especially important and connecting with them was very powerful for me, I’m hopeful it was for them as well.
My takeaway is what I hoped it would be: proof that sport in combination with education and empowerment is an extremely vital piece of connecting with humans anywhere on earth. Thank you Ethiopia, you have been extremely kind and generous.
Lesle Gallimore is the Head Coach of the women at The University of Washington in Seattle, as well as a National Staff Instructor and Youth National Team coach for the U. S. Soccer Federation.