By Dawit Tolesa, The Reporter
Ethiopia’s Under 23 national team will take on neighbor Sudan on Sunday to qualify for the 11th edition of the All Africa Games tournament which will be held in Brazzaville, Congo from September 4 to 19, 2015.
The two teams will clash at the new Dire Dawa Stadium which received recognition from the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the continents football governing body, last week to host international competitions.
This is not the first time when the eastern city of Ethiopia hosted an international match. When Ethiopia organized the 10th African Cup of Nations in 1976, the humid city of Dire Dawa hosted group matches.
Mariano Barreto, Ethiopia’s national team coach, has selected 20 players for this qualifier from among a pool of 43 players recruited from across the country.
Apart from new names, the list includes players who had previous stints with the national team. Young prospect Natnael Zeleke, who plays in midfield position for premier league side St. George, and his club teammate Salahdin Bergecho, defender, are included in Ethiopia’s U-23 team.
“We will try to do our best to qualify for the All Africa Games. We have a good squad and we have been training hard for this match,” Natnael Zeleke told The Reporter.
Premier League reigning champions St. George lead from among the team of league clubs by having five of their players selected for the U-23 national team. Electric follows with four while Ethiopia Coffee have three of their players representing the national team.
Barreto’s team will hope to make advantage of the home fixture. The return match will be held in two weeks’ time in Khartoum, Sudan. Referees from Kenya will officiate the match assisted by a commissioner from Djibouti.
The first All Africa Games were held in 1965 in Brazzaville, Congo and since the 1991 All Africa Games the age limit for men football teams is set under the age of 23. The organizers have announced 21 separate sports for the 2015 African Games, and two additional disability sports.
Goalkeepers: Assegid Aklilu (Electric) and Kibreab Dawit (Hawassa City)
Defenders: Salahdin Bergecho (St. George), Awot Gebremichael (Electric), Zekarias Tuji (Electric), Hailemedhin Reshid (Ethiopia Coffee) and Tewodros Bekele (Defense)
Midfielders: Mintesnot Adane (St. George), Andargachew Yilak (St. George), Natnael Zeleke (St. George), Gatock Panom (Ethiopia Coffee), Michael Beyene (Ethiopia Coffee), Hayder Sherif (Dedebit FC), Surafel Kebede (Mugher Cement) and Endale Kebede (Sidama Coffee)
Strikers: Dawa Utessa (St. George), Ephrem Kere (Mugher Cement), Minyelu Wondimu (Defense), Ramkel Loke (Electric) and Abdurahman Mubarek (Addis Ababa City)