By Teis Feldborg Gregersen
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The adventure of the Ethiopian national team and its fans in South Africa has come to an end. After three matches in the group stage, Ethiopia was sent home, but the matches managed to gather a whole country around them, and generated an incredible atmosphere around the games, an atmosphere people especially got to feel when watching the matches publicly.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to follow all three games from four very different locations: home, in a minibus, in a sports bar and on one of the big screens in Meskel Square.
It has been 31 years since Ethiopia last qualified for the African Cup of Nations, and for their first match of the tournament, they were up against the huge favorites and defending champions of Zambia.
I was heading to a sports bar sitting in a minibus as the game started, and the slow traffic resulted in me following the game by carefully listening to the radio as the first half of the game progressed. Since I hardly understand Amharic, the reactions of the other passengers were the only indication of the matchÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s events. I was truly surprised as the other passengers started talking loudly; smiling unusually much at each other and all the cars, trucks and busses on the road started honking. People turned down the windows of their vehicles to shout to each other and for a minute everything seemed to be total chaos. Did Ethiopia really score the first goal of the match? Was David beating Goliath? No, Saladine missed the penalty and Ethiopia did not score; the commentator did not scream Ã¢â‚¬ËœOh-ya-yaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, and the voice-level turned back to the tense silence, exactly like before the referee pointed at the penalty spot in ZambiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s area. Minutes passed by as the traffic kept going at a very slow pace, every passenger was carefully listening to the radio and the next big event came quickly after the penalty. The Ethiopian goalkeeper, Jemal Tassew, was sent off and as the radio speaker told us, the taxi got a hard hit by the hands of some of the other passengers that could easily be confused with the ones the conductors usually give the taxi, but it was not, since everyone understood how difficult it just became to even get a single point from of the match.
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