AFCON…January 19- Feb 3
So this is what happened. When the Waliyas had their last friendly match at the national stadium with Tanzania, Addis Ababans flocked in to wish their national team good luck during the AFCON tournament. The Stadium was full and with the performance they put on that day, people couldn’t have been more confident, more proud and more cheerful.
Fast forward to two weeks, a draw (or a win as we all like to believe) and two defeats later, the Waliyas arrive at the Bole International Airport and the reception was, well, close to NONE. I bumped into a friend of mine the other day and he told me he was there cheering for them all by himself. Anyway, the next day, my friends and I heard that they would make an appearance at the stadium early morning. So we thought it was going to be a grand affair. We woke up on a gloomy early Saturday morning and rushed to the stadium. I took a taxi from home and call my friends every now and then to make sure they get there as quick as possible cause I assumed we had to be there so early if we were going to get a seat. Man, was I in for a sad surprise.
To start off, entrance was for FREE. The national team’s official sponsor, Bedele, was handing out flags and small banners, FOR FREE. Enter the stadium by the tila foq and there were probably less than a thousand people there, some were scattered elsewhere. The organizers, at one point, had to pull everyone into one place so it would look less pathetic.
The sun finally decided to show its face but the atmosphere was oh, so devastating. Yes, we scored just that one goal and Burkina Faso and Nigeria sealed our elimination and we were ranked 16th in the tournament but people seem to have forgotten that the same national team was the one that got us going nuts on October 14th, it was the same national team that wowed us during its game with former African champions and it was the same team that put on a great performance on their game with who were going to be Africa’s champions. But that seemed to have been forgotten. I will not, however, go on without saluting all of you who showed up that morning. You are True Fans.
A while back, I had watched the national team play Guinea to qualify for the AFCON 2012 and I remembered how they had defeated us, how bad our performance was and hearing more booing than appreciations. I also remembered that awful rain and the beredo. Put the four nil defeat and the bad weather and you have ONE HELL OF A DAY, literally. This time, however, as I watched our boys play their way through the tournament I saw a completely different team that was capable of attracting a fan base beyond its countrymen. I wouldn’t be surprised if Spain played so well but this was our team, our boys, we’re blood so it is not questionable that we were overjoyed. We had been used to watching one disappointing game after another, we were used to expecting nothing good out of our national team so we ought to be overwhelmed when our boys not only changed our footballing history by passing to the AFCON after 31 years but also when they disproved former predictions and made a name for themselves.
I don’t know what the rest of you thought was going to be our fate in the AFCON but when it all ended too soon it was unanticipated. I believe it was Monday’s game that led to such disappointment. Not because there was anything wrong with it but because it left us with so much hope and gave us a reason to believe we were going to make it. You know how things go bad when you expect too much? Well, this was that!
The other thing that was unexpected was how fast some supporters turned their backs on the team. People who were singing with joy on Monday were talking trash about members of the team by Saturday. I think we have to remember certain things before we lash out on the coaches and the players. True we have a long way to go, there are a lot of things to be worked at, lots of weaknesses and by the look of things, loads of goal keepersJ but the thing is we have only just crossed the start line, the journey has only begun, and we have a very long road ahead of us. Our team doesn’t need our support when they lift a cup, they need us when they’re struggling and in need of encouragement.
They say if you keep telling a child he’s stupid because he makes mistakes, he’ll start believing you and stop working to correct them. We can’t curse them every time they lose a ball, or go Jamal Tassew Style 😉 We however can give constructive comments .We have to realize that as fans, we are the major support system for the national team. At this point we’re all they’ve got and if we don’t stand with them through the ups and downs, the wins and losses we might as well just stop calling ourselves supporters. We have plenty issues at hand that can divide us but as an Ethiopian we are to be faithful supporters by default.
The main purpose of all of this is to keep the fire burning. We have qualifying matches for the world cup and our unshakable support is still needed. While our boys do their thing in the pitch, we have one and only one duty, to support them without fail, whether in Wins or losses. So, if we have to plead, please show up in the stadium, dressed in your Ethiopian jersey, with a sparkling green-yellow-red face paint or a flag on your back or whatever suits you. Just show up and prove to our team that you still have faith in them.
We’ll see you on Sunday, right???….Right!!!
Ethiopia lezelalem tinur!!!