By Zecharias Zelalem, ehahu.com

Baretto U-23A meek performance at home to Sudan, saw the Ethiopian U-23 national team lose 2-1 to their Sudanese counterparts in the first leg of qualification for the 2015 All Africa Games. Mariano Barreto‘s men were toothless up front, and were poor at the back, with a defender’s howler by Tewodros Bekele contributing to the 2-0 lead Sudan had heading into the break. An injury time penalty by Dawa Hotessa reduced the scoreline by a goal, and gave the Ethiopians a crucial aggregate goal, but with the poor performance shown at home by the uncoordinated inexperienced collection of players from both the Ethiopian Premier League and lower divisions, you would be forgiven for putting your money on an Ethiopian capitulation in Khartoum.

After a poor 2014, it was always going to be a slow 2015 for the Walyas, who failed to reach the 2015 African Cup of Nations. With no major tournament qualification campaigns, the Ethiopian national team had the 2015 All Africa Games as well as the 2016 CHAN tournament qualifiers to take part in this year. Both are tournaments in which Ethiopia will not employ full strength squads, with the U-23 side fighting to reach the Games in Congo Brazzaville, while a squad of home based players will be sent in a bid to qualify for the CHAN tournament to be hosted by Rwanda next year. The year will be closed with the 2015 CECAFA Cup, if the incredibly inept CECAFA organizing committee can actually convince a nation to host the tournament, which is losing the little prestige it had by the day.

Hardly a year worthy of forking out 20,000 US$ a month for a coach who has been unable to build on the progress of his predecessor. Under Mariano Barreto, the Ethiopian national team has gone on to have their worst calendar year since 2010, when Ethiopia hired Iffy Onuora, a mediocre low league manager who had never coached at international level. But in Onuora’s defense, the team he had taken over at the time was just fresh from being reinstated by FIFA after a year long ban saw them forfeit their remaining games during their long shot attempt at reaching the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Mariano Barreto meanwhile, took over one of the strongest versions of the Walyas in a generation. The team he inherited was a short passing, counterattacking entertaining football machine. In 2012, the Ethiopian national team, under the tutelage of coaches Sewnet Bishaw and Seyoum Kebede turned the Ethiopian sporting world on its head when it reached the African Cup of Nations. The following year, the Walyas nearly reached the grand stage, the FIFA World Cup and qualified for their first ever CHAN tournament. When Sewnet Bishaw was finally dismissed from his post, it was because of a perceived lack of tactical know how which had proven costly, especially at the 2014 CHAN tournament which was a disaster for Ethiopia. Still, the gaffer had created a solid team orientated squad of players playing with their hearts on their sleeves.

Original article appeared: ehahu.com

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