Afcon 2013 Preview: Ethiopia finally back where they belong (including incredible archival footage)

The team of 1962, the last and only Ethiopian team to win the Africa Cup of Nations. Photo: Bezabeh Abetew

Guest Post By Andreas Hansen for Addis Rumble*

It has been a long time coming. The Ethiopian national team has been rare guest at the Africa Cup of Nations. In the years after the inaugural tournament in 1957 – in which only three teams took part and Ethiopia got a wild card to the final – the ‘Walaya Antelopes’ was a dominant force in African football winning the cup in 1962 on home turf in Addis Ababa and reaching the semifinals in 1963 and 1968. However, the glorious period of the 60′s was followed by four dismal decades and not a single participation in the tournament since 1982.

This week Ethiopia is making a surprise comeback at the 2013 Cup of Nations in South Africa after knocking out neighboring rivals Sudan through an aggregate 5-5 draw in the final qualification round. In the days after the qualification was secured in October last year, Addis seemed like a transformed city. Previously you would hardly notice any football celebrations in the city scape (other than of the usual English Premier League teams) but following the qualification most of the capital’s blue taxies and mini busses – usually the best way of distilling public opinion – started displaying posters of the national team with a ‘Yes We Can’ text added.

Saladin Said is by far the biggest star. Adane Girma is another talented striker who scored the first goal against Sudan, Yusuf Sala is the star midfielder (playing in Sweden) and then there is the striker Fuad Ibrahim who plays in the US (Minnesota Stars).

Despite being drawn in a tough group with defending champions Zambia, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, expectations are high in Addis. The manager of  ’Abeba Grocery’, our local neighborhood bar, recently told us he was convinced that the Walayas would bring home the cup for the first time in half a century and he has even invested in a TV to be able to watch Ethiopia’s matches. At official level, the hopes for a new golden decade for Ethiopian football are just as high. A new 60,000-seat national arena is being planned along with a potential bid to host the Africa Cup of Nations in the near future.

Expectations are high in Addis and all Ethiopians seem confident that they will make it through the group stage. In my years in Ethiopia there has never been much talk about the national team but these days it’s the only talk of town, especially the $100,000 bonus promised to the players. At Addis Rumble, we keep our fingers crossed for the Walayas and we celebrate Ethiopia’s return to Africa’s finest football forum with a tour down memory lane through the photo archives. Enjoy the ride.

The legendary team of 1962, coached by Yidnekatchew Tessema who went on to become President of the African Football Confederation (CAF) as well as Ethiopian Olympic Committee. Some of the outstanding players on the team included Mengistu Worku who scored twice in the final as well as the Italo and Luciano Vassalo brothers.

1962 captain Luciano Vassalo receiving the cup from Emperor Haile Selassie. The Ethiopians defeated rivals Egypt 4-2 in a thrilling final. Photo: Bezabeh Anbetew

The 1962 team celebrates victory.

The 1960′s team on a visit to Moscow.

The team of 1968

Luciano Vassalo during Ethiopia’s match against Ivory Coast at the 1968 finals.

Footage from the 1968 Cup final between Congo and Ghana played in Addis Ababa and attended by his Emperor Haile Selassie. Congo won the game 1-0 to clinch their first Cup title while Ethiopia finished 4th.

The Ethiopian national team of the early 1970s.

The team of 2012 that qualified Ethiopia to her first Africa Cup finals in 30 years.

Ethiopia play their first match in Afcon 2013 against Zambia today at 15.00 GMT.

* This post is reprinted here with kind permission of Addis RumbleAddis Rumble is about “appreciating and communicating creative African endeavors.”


13 thoughts on “Afcon 2013 Preview: Ethiopia finally back where they belong (including incredible archival footage)

  1. We wish the Walayas Antelopes the best as they meet the cream of the continent. Zambia will not endevor to humiliate the antelopes as they will fall by 3- 0 win, but prepare them for future. GO ZAMBIA GO!

  2. Tah Walya Walya Antelopes you totally changed everything! This is the turning point in our football history! This is another super-duper you coming out of the old one! Pls never go back to the previous one and make as miserable as we were for half a century!!

  3. @ mwila, hehe now u have seen we didn’t humiliate u guys by winnig wz only 10 men( after loosing our 1st keeper) for an hour. If history wrks, don’t forgrt zat we were pioners and champions of Africa at some point like u did last year zo I like ur keeper( the penality specialist).

  4. Many might argue about my opinion but I say this; the name “Waliya” sucks. If you study carefully “Waliya Ibex” is indigenous animal on danger of extinction , found only in Ethiopia; however it is not and cannot represent the true Ethiopian Heroism and Courage since it belongs to the Antelope family…as we all deduce Antelopes are herbivores who are always insecure and on the run to save their lives from predators… so let us think over it, ‘our national team deserves better symbol that shall motivate it and proudly represent it’ … I suggest this… “The Black Lions” as an option…keeping in mind what we did and who we were during the colonial expansions…the only African Nation firmly stood, sovereign, symbolic for the Black Nations from Africa to Caribbeans. So let us not give up on the Black Lions…they were true soldiers today…If we are united there is a great hope for this land in soccer that will be marked on great stages like the AFCON and the World Cup.

  5. Hi to All ethiopian and all reads my question is old time ethiopian soccur ( foot ball) team was really eppresive and strong i heard when ethiopia won 3rd African national cup and i remember when ethiopia won centeral and middle Afican cup why now they are so getting weak and weaker from time to time???????? please tell me some one? who loved soccur know history of ethiopian team.

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