Ethiopia: Football – Sewnet Must Go


Photo by MTNFootball

Photo by MTNFootball



Three years have hardly elapsed since the Ethiopian National Football Team – the Walyas – strode forward from back page sideline commentaries to front page news stories after coming out of their 30-year hibernation. Their victory over their Sudanese counterparts in Addis Abeba was one of the many factors that triggered it. But there was football in Ethiopia long before that.

Qualifying for an African continental football tournament should not be a novelty for a country like Ethiopia. It was one of four countries to lay the founding stone of the Confederation for African Football (CAF), while most African nations were still preoccupied with the question of freeing themselves from the yokes of colonialism.

There was football in Ethiopia more than seven decades ago, when strikers, like Mengistu Worku and midfielders, such as Yidenkachew Tessema, were not only dominating the local media, but also very popular names in other African countries. Transient as we all are, generations have passed leaving only their nostalgic memories behind.

The winning of matches and the proud attention had all vanished into the thin air, absent from the international scenes for over 31 years. Indeed, the media had overused this sad sentiment, until the Walya’s victory over the Sudanese team.

In 2010, Ethiopia qualified for the CAF Championship held in South Africa. Notwithstanding the final result, the Walyas had become known as a power to be reckoned with.

The quality of football they displayed was in itself a new dynamic that boosted the morale and expectation of every football fan at home and abroad. This included members of the ruling party, who not only pledged to encourage the growth of football infrastructure in the country, but also to donate prizes and money to both players and coaches.

For unknown reasons, however, this victory in football has been construed as a sentimental expression of Ethiopianism. Football fans push this trend to the extreme, so much so that people not only wear jerseys in the nation’s tricolour flag, but also associate victory or defeat with the country’s prestige.

They forget that football is only a means of entertainment and a source of joy. They consider losing in a football game as a national disgrace and public disappointment.

That seems to be what is being felt among many football fans these days in the wake of consistent defeats. The cracks seem to be showing.

When a new building construction is finished, owners and contractors agree to conduct a provisional acceptance until one year – the idea being to have enough time to observe if any kind of structural fault may show up. If any trace of cracks appears within the agreed period of time, structural engineers make attempts to find the cause of the fault. They begin from the results of a soil test, the depth of the footing, the concrete mix, the casting duration, the strength of the material used and so on, before taking any kind of a corrective measure.

We can take this analogy as to the way clubs in the country in general and the national squad, the Walyas, in particular, are set up. The last two years have shown us the affirmative sides of the country’s football status.

Soon after the Walyas failed to qualify for their first World Cup, to be held in Brazil, losing in a play-off with Nigeria, they have started travelling down a slippery slope in performance.

Are the cracks showing too soon?

I would like to comment on some stakeholders in an attempt to dig deep into the structural explanation, in addition to the distortion and general sentimental shift. I want to start with sport journalists.

Every person has a right to give his or her opinion or make comments. But messing up a professional report with opinion and unprofessional analysis, without even daring to call a spade a spade, is not only out of context and irrelevant, but can also be precarious at times.

Coaches or mangers cannot be free from criticism.

Is Sewnet Bishaw, the national squad coach, shouldering the duty of a manager or coach, or both?

Just like the structural engineer is responsible to determine the strength of materials, so does a coach have the responsibility of going to all corners of the country to scout potential players and train them up as succeeding squad members. He has to inculcate the necessary skills to help them grow and reach their potential.

Football is not something one can develop by digging or bulldozing. It requires both physical and mental development. The coach should be able to deliver both.

This takes us to assess his abilities by the results of his team. That includes his capability to read and evaluate the weak and strong sides of his rival teams in advance, so that his decision to locate which player at which part of the field may be more or less effective. Victory should be his target.

Sewnet has achieved a lot in improving the competitiveness of the Walyas, advancing them very close to success. But that much achievement is not attributable to his ability alone.

As the late Yidnekatchew Tessema once said, “there are times when success becomes typical to certain generation of a given era”. That era could not repeat itself after the old guards of the Walyas left the team, when fate took them away.

As the old English proverb goes, “in the country of the blind, a one-eyed man is a king”, Sewenet, successful as he is up to an extent, should not feel indispensible and presumptuous. He cannot be immune from criticism, just because of his past track records.

His reluctance to give a press release, his impatience to stay put throughout a full game, his inability to travel the country for scouting or even his inability to think strategically and cultivate young stars in high time would not have qualified him for any post, according to many, if it were not in Ethiopia. His failure to substitute the right player at the right time is very significant.

Even then, there cannot be any place for tolerating any preposterous attitude in a country of over 81 million people. It is wise to know one’s self and to be ready to say enough is enough and bow out with dignity, before the curtain is forcibly drawn down.

He could go and sit sparingly on the bench. I could be wrong. But it is better to be wrong and face the truth, than turn around and stab him in the back with a dagger of hypocrisy.

Source: Addis Fortune

18 thoughts on “Ethiopia: Football – Sewnet Must Go

  1. @Embosa: Your reply to the article is an interesting one. You blamed the article for lack of depth and ranted about professionals. I agree with the lack of depth in the article and don ‘t claim to know what professional journalists should do. But the conclusions is agreed up on with so many football knowing individuals. Whether you didn’t see the games and how the coach placed and substituted players or you have no idea about football. People say he must go basing their reasoning from the team’s performance on the pitch. That should be the major measuring stick not the profit he brought to the EFF. Any other coach could do that. Let me give you one technical example: when playing with Congo, he substituted minhale, a very technical player while letting Omud play for full-time even though he had five or six bad first touches (very important skill for a striker). If he wanted goals, he could tried manaye more often than Omud ( who is a very flat player and no technical ability) and make adane play forward . He has done such kind of mistakes several times in the past. That is when you question his ability and competence. Given time, somebody’s true quality will show up. That is what happened to him. His true ability showed up and it doesn’t measure up. We are worried that he will take the football backwards. Don’t get me started with the answers he gives on interviews most of which are not well thought out and not expected from an adult let alone from national team manager/coach. I am embraced for him for his comments like ” We didn’t win, because we couldn’t score” , ” I can’t score goals for players” or ” I don’t care about others’ opinions because my house is paid off and my children are grown up so I am not afraid of being canned” If we truly want the growth of our football, we should try somebody else.

  2. I think sewnt beshaw is not coach because he didn’t have quality & efficiency so you never no continue .

  3. All are responsible especially the Coach will take more responsibility. Because he thinks that he is always right and he is perfect on his work. He is a human being hence he is not perfect. So, please Ato Sewnet Bishaw be ready for change by accepting critics or feedback. You always want appreciation.

  4. All are responsible especially the Coach will take more responsibility. Because he thinks that he is always right and he is perfect on his work. He is a human being hence he is not perfect. So, please Ato Sewnet Bishaw be ready for change by accepting critics or feedback. You always want appreciation.

  5. በውጭ ሃገር ቋንቋ መወያየት ምን የሚሉት ጉራማይሌ አመለካከት ነው፡፡ መጀመሪያ ለራሣችን ነገር ክብር ለመስጠት እንሞክር

  6. ለማን ነው የተጻፈው ለእኛ ለኢትዮጰያውያን አይደለም እንዴ???? እንድንወያይበት ከተፈለገ በሃገራችን ቋንቋ ለመጻፍ ሞክር ወንድማችን ግርማ ስለሃገራችን ጉዳይ በውጭ ሃገር ቋንቋ መወያየት ምን የሚሉት ጉራማይሌ አመለካከት ነው፡፡ መጀመሪያ ለራሣችን ነገር ክብር ለመስጠት እንሞክር

  7. First of all I respect your thought as your personal expression but I would love to express that your argument and final conclusion is not as strong and rational as you start to state your idea in the beginning. I think you lack detail historical analyses, current football development at national and Club level,challenges , strength, other African country football history, participation…….
    So for me it is a great work and chance to our national team to participate such games even if as any one wish to reach for final game. Including me I have never see and heard about Ethiopia on Africa cup of nation ( some times I fell Ethiopia is not part of African country sometimes participation which looks for me It is taboo to go for African cup of nation game. ) I am not an expert or professional but I see as a good startup and to our gaps and weekness for next match and for next generation. Therefore for me blaming the coach it self doesn’t bring the intended result instead it looks some latent interest on him

  8. yes everyone has the right to express his opinion: but people has to use this right appropriately.
    Dont simply open your mouth; cos people may see your empty mind.
    All what you wrote is rubbish.
    open your mind,and take time to read and know your country before you sit to write something!!!!

  9. Hey guys! Just watch the boring Eth. premier league and then conclude. These players don’t come from somewhere else, but from this poor league. That was manifested in CHAN ZA. Of source, Sewnet did some mistakes. But the major share, I think, came from the players for the losses. If we take, for example, the 3 games in CHAN, they had created so many chances but none were changed in to goals. you can’t tell me, Sewnet to enter and score those goals. Let’s not focus on one person. We better invest a lot on the management of football in the country. He(Sewnet) showed us something from scratch. Thus, we need to give him some more time until his contract expires.

  10. yes good decision Sewenet should go .only attention he has attracted to the Ethiopian football
    .but in addition we want more than this quality of our team ; yet sewnet bishaw shuold be thanks for his input .

  11. it is not the matter of LEAVING sewnet from the coach. but the greatest share for the lose of the national team is due to the weak side of EFF. in talking about Ethiopian sport including athletics, all the top officials simply talk about the strength of the sport. we are really weak, still our sport not developed or have no any base. everything is done by corruption. there is rarely work on the new generation. a certain individuals may strong like salhadin and getaneh. on theother hand the journalists focus only the result of each game. the may raise different factors about the coach, the players etc. and after the game in each media they tries to suggest little solution. but after some four years we see similar problem the same to athletics. sow how can the writer concluds about the leaving of sewnet, having hundreds of thousands of problem in the country other than the sewnet? Of corse as a human being there were some critical problems of sewnet. still there are problems in the grassroots level for Ethiopian sport.

  12. This article lacks factual accuracy and ponders around topics to the extent that it is almost difficult to pin down which argument(s) the author bases his views to finally suggest coach Sewenet should go. On unrelated topic, the author avers that people follow sports ONLY for joy and I quote “…football is only a means of entertainment and a source of joy…”. Is it really?? Which study you read lead you to such a strong conclusion? or is it a ‘TRUE opinion’? No sir!! Football or any other sport competition is actually highly regarded as a less harmful means of projecting patriotism/ Nationalism. Pile of work to support this fact but still, the missionary of truth as your article strives to be, fails to doubt a statement with an adjective ONLY. Secondly, you have questioned our right to give informed criticism over what journalists have to say about issues in our National team saying and I quote ‘…. messing up a professional report with opinion and unprofessional analysis…’. To extract this phrase from an article that coveys the message of fundamentals flaws in the country’s systematization of the sport is really strange. Wouldn’t you agree that sport journalism is one branch of the interacting factors that needs amelioration in this country? Wouldn’t you say in a country where football is not highly developed, it is only natural its journalists may not be so PROFESSIONAL? Or Perhaps, that the so called professionals might have overvalued their opinions? In retrospect, I believe sport journalism in Ethiopia lacks originality and analysis ability, and hence needs a provision by its own right. I won’t even bother to comment on the rather abstruse attempt to build analogy with systematization of our football.

    Sewent should stay. Here is a little 3rd grade factual analysis to support my position: A simple figure of cost Vs. revenue. How much has the EFF been paying swenet bishaw in the last two years? Assuming the has been recieving 30,000 Birr/ month, the coach has earned a total of 720, 000birr (around $37894 ). Now let’s consider how much the EFF has earned in the two years as sewent lead the team into the three tournaments participation only (Not counting the attention he has attracted to the Ethiopian football): ACF, World cup qualifiers and chan-africa . The revenue sums up to $ 300,000 (this number may have an offset). Simply put, the coach has made profit at least 5 times more than he earned in the past two years. Now lets all ask this question, including our Professional journalists, do you bring profit twice as much as you earn to your employer? I mean this question could be asked in every sector of government work in Ethiopia? The true answer would be HIGHLY DOUBT IT?! So, EFF as a sane employer, wouldn’t have the audacity to even think about firing swenet bishaw at this stage because he is a profit making coach!! Therefore, swenet bishaw should at least stay for the next two years. 😀

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