By Asrat Seyoum and Tewodros Kibkab
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Ending its 31-year streak, the 23-man Ethiopian National Team completed a respectable AFCON campaign early last week and touched down at Bole Airport yesterday to a hero’s welcome.
Sure it was a different century (20th) the last time Ethiopia took part in the continent’s most prestigious soccer game. And yes most of the gentlemen in Sewnet Bishaw‘s selection were not even born the last time their predecessors played at the continental stages, which ironically was also pioneered by another Ethiopian team from a much farther past (1957). Nevertheless, if there is one fact that the group C encounters in South Africa revealed during the past two weeks it is that they (the Walyas) knew how to make an entrance into a tournament, where they were lost from for three decades.
Following the team’s the 2-0 victory over Sudan coming from a 5-3 defeat in the first leg match in Omdurman and securing a spot in AFCON finals, the international media and soccer fans alike were quite surprised by the turn of events. In fact, few of the main stream media houses made Ethiopia’s qualification together with first-time AFCON participants Cape Verde a big headline. Going to the group stages, the team was constantly underrated, yet applauded, by the media and spectators for rejoining the tournament after its long absence. In retrospect, it was the Ethiopian fans and only them who expected their team to make something of the AFCON 2013 campaign. But for many the Walyas were indeed the underdog team, at least in so far as international game experiences are concerned. Well, they (Walyas) were not formidable title challengers in the tournament, but they sure were not about to conclude their campaign without leaving behind something to be remembered by. It is as if they were convinced that it was too important of an event not do something to be recalled.
The surprise packed by the Walyas began to unfold from the first game on, with last year’s champions Zambia, who were also forced to leave the tournament very early. In fact, this is not about the slick short passes that the Walyas are usually known for. But rather, it is the dramatic turn of events that they influenced in each game they played in South Africa.
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