Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous nation and one of its most ancient and inspirational cultures, but the country’s national football team has long lagged behind the continent’s big boys. Social, economic and natural conditions have all combined to keep the nation of almost 85-million people struggling, and the plight of the Walya Antelopes has followed suit.

Despite having never qualified for the FIFA World Cupâ„¢, Ethiopia were one of the early trend-setters in African football. They finished second of three teams in the first-ever CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1957, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of their sole continental triumph. However, as more African nations won independence and began to assert themselves on the football pitch, Ethiopia faded from the scene. Internal strife, lacking organisation and bad luck have seen them reach just two AFCON finals since 1970 with the last of them coming a full three decades from this year. Since then, the football-mad nation has had to make do with success in regional competitions, while an impressive predilection for long-distance running has usurped football’s place in the international spotlight. Read more on