ADDIS ABABA (HAN) September 13.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. In Ethiopian calendar the New Year, Meskerem 1, 2009, has just begun on Sunday September 11, 2016.
Today is the 3rd day of the New Ethiopian Year. It is necessary to look back, at least briefly, the events that were just concluded on Saturday.
At the start of 2008 there was a great hope in the sports field. The year was the year of Olympics and it was also a year for the 2017 African Nations Cup qualifiers. At the start there was a great hope that the country will shine in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
This hope has solid ground. Ethiopia has high profile world athletes like Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar. These are Olympic gold medallists and world champions in 10, 000 and 5, 000 metres. The country has also emerging super powers such as Genzebe Dibaba, the 1, 500m world record holder and Almaz Ayana.
Having these great athletics talents it is relatively easier to foresee big wins in Rio.
In the case of football, the hope was understood. Ethiopia was in Group J along with the African giant Algeria and the minnows Lesotho and Seychelles.
Though winning over Algeria was bleak from the start but finishing a good second was highly expected.
The great despair
While the people are in good mood and big hope, the selection of athletes brought some confusion. Great athletes like Kenenisa and Meseret were dropped out of the Rio Olympic squad. That has created uproar within the athletes and the community at large. Kenenisa openly complained that he was left out unfairly from the squad. His grievance was simple: he was dropped by criteria which was set after the competition.
By definition the athletes go in to selection competition in a criteria set before the contest. Big names like Kenenisa, Meseret and Yomif Kejelcha were dropped out one after the other through this unfair practice.
Surprisingly enough, the country’s athletics governing body, the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, admitted that mistakes have been made for not disclosing the selection criteria in advance.
But correction has not been taken. Admitting mistakes and openly requesting apology is a kind of civilization but inability to correct mistake is rather recklessness. Requesting apology for its own sake is simply useless.
The big mistake was also done in the selection of coaches. The calculation was to claim that the federation is vibrant by bringing new and young coaches from schools and the ability to produce young talents to substitute the old guards but it didn’t work. Here starts the great despair.
The school boys’ athletics coaches assumed responsibility by ousting the veterans like Tolosa Kutu. By dropping the veteran athletes like Kenenisa the federation brought the young who are equally competent ones.
In Rio the expected 4 gold medals evaporated and the country got one gold through Almaz Ayana. All the others were forced to finish second and third. Mo Farah easily made the Olympic double-double, the first athlete to register this result. The Ethiopians, the favourites to win 10, 000 and 5, 000m are crushed by Mo Farah. This was indeed a disappointing moment for the Ethiopian people.
In the aftermath of the Rio Olympics the former Ethiopian athletics heroes and heroine like Haile Gebreselassie, Gezahegn Abera, Deratu Tutu, Gebreigziabher Gebremariam angrily reacted to the poor showing and demanded an immediate structural change including the dismissal of the Executive Committee members of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation and the sacking of coaches along with their technical staff.
Their call was not warmly received by the Sports authority. Anbesaw Inyew, State Minister of the Youth and Sports denounced the call of the veteran athletes. The surprise part of the State Minister argument is the accusation of the veteran athletes for tax evasion and corruption.
Well, the State Minister’s accusation and the issue raised are not related. If the veteran athletes evade taxes and involve in corruption, they must face the consequences. But the issue raised is about the poor performance of the Rio Olympics. According to the veteran athletes the federation and the weak coaches are responsible for this poor showing. Their conclusion is derivation of these premises.
Logically speaking the State Minister should give answer for the issue raised but what was addressed by him was incongruent to the point of discussion. The issue remained unresolved and accordingly the danger lies ahead.
The unlucky footballers
The Ethiopian national football team had all the chance to qualify for the 2017 Gabon African Nations Cup as the best runners up but they are so unlucky they failed because of the goal deficiency. Their chance was fully spoiled when they conceded a 7-1 defeat at the hands of the eventual group winner Algeria. To make matters worse they had the chance to collect the full three points with a win over Algeria in the return leg but they dropped two points with a 3-3 tie. At the end the unexpected Togo qualified in place of Ethiopia. This has created deep sorrow within the football community.
This was simply a glimpse at the year 2008. It is difficult to give the full picture of the year just concluded on Saturday 10 September in so short a space but it gives a clue to understand some aspects of the year in athletics and football.