Opinion | The Drama Surrounding Ethiopian Football Federation

After weeks of protracted proceedings the Presidential Election of EFF seems to be taking shape. On Thursday the Electoral committee has been assigned and after having resolved the venue and time of the election in a previous meeting all that remains now is the final voting part. For weeks the election process has been the main headline across the country’s sports media, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

Speaking to EBC, members of the Electoral Committee stressed on the problematic journey of the election and the unprofessional conduct of some members while vowing to make the election democratic.

The members are twelve in number, Belete Zewde (Addis Ababa), Mekonen Desta (Dire Dawa), Abdulhakim Mohammed (Afar), Mohammed Yayu (Afar), Comissioner Fisseha Garedew (Debub), Zerihun Mekonen (Amhara), Derebe Kebede (Benshangul), Dida Deriba (Oromia), Ferhan Mohammed (Ethio-Somali), Abadi Haylay (Tigray), Bang Nuray (Gambella) and Shewarega (Association).

As mentioned earlier the election has been full of chaos until now. With continuous disagreements among those in office, to personal jibes among the nominees and to the discontent of the general public; it has been nothing short of eventful.
Murmurs of discontent first erupted when the list of candidates was announced, a list that includes two people who already have worked in the Federation and the current President who is looking for another term in office.

The first candidate is Dr. Ashebir Weldegiyorgis, who left his role in the Basketball Federation in order to return to EFF. During his time in office, Ethiopia won two CECAFA championships and that was the appeal he used during the debate program organized by EBC. If one of the lowest competitions of African football is the sum of our great ambition then that is just sad.
Dr. Ashebir’s previous reign as president was hardly smooth sailing. His administration got into a rift with several clubs in the Premier League to the point that no less 10 clubs decided to boycott. The reason for dissent was the 2008 AFCON qualifiers game vs DRC which meant that the league game will temporarily be suspended. Scheduling has always been a problem of our federation despite being one of the easiest tasks among the list of responsibilities.

Another of the candidates who is seeking another stint is Teka Asfaw, who served as VP under Dr. Ashebir’s successor Sahlu Gebrewold. Despite reaching the AFCON after 31 years and narrowly missing out on the World Cup this administration wasn’t able to build on those achievements and the country soon reverted to its poor form.

The third candidate is the current president Juneidi Basha who took office in 2013. During his term Ethiopian national team have endured bad results and one of the worst FIFA rankings in its history. Embarrassing defeats to Algeria and Ghana were followed by a 154th place in FIFA ranking. The National Team had four managers in as many years and things seem to be going from bad to worse.

If the fact that three former leaders are fighting to hold office isn’t bizarre enough the manner in which they went about it is downright outrageous. Rather than following the standards set by FIFA for undertaking elections the members went on as they see fit. Whether it’s because they were not able to understand the laws written or unwillingness to abide by the ruling body is not clear, but they decided to make the election without first making sure an Electoral committee has been set and that the candidates have fulfilled the pre-requisites.
The standard electoral code clearly states the need of transparency. It underlies the electoral committee organises and supervises the election process and takes all decisions relating to the Election and those members of the Committee must under no circumstances be
members of the executive body. The Electoral Committee also has the responsibility of examination of the candidates and making sure of their legitimacy. And so it goes on, a long list of rules the Football Federation decided to overlook until the very last minute.

Even now, after the assignment of the Electoral Committee, doubts still linger over the impartiality of the members. Not least because some of them are members of the executive body. There is a strong feeling that they are merely delegates sent to fulfill the whims and wishes of member states.

Let’s get back to the first General Assembly which took place a couple of weeks ago. A meeting filled with a lot of noise and little substance. At the end of that meeting it was decided that the election be postponed by 45 days and be undertaken in Semera, Afar.
The sexist and derogatory comments of Tekleweyni Assefa which cost him his role is another chapter of the long list of embarrassing things we have seen from an organization that was supposed to solve the problems of our football.

It just looks like many of the people involved in this election are trying to further their positions rather than help our football. Everyone has been talking about the need to give the office to people who have worked with football and have a better understanding of the game. But here we have former Presidents and Vice Presidents making it a popularity contest. And the only person who fulfills the above criteria Anteneh Feleke, a former footballer, has been reportedly replaced by Esayas Jira, former general manager of Jimma Aba Buna FC. Talk about impartiality!

This type of mentality is the last thing our football needs. It is easy to use managers and players as scapegoats when results go bad but as long as there is no change regarding how the country’s football is run things will only get worse.

As long as the people in power only want to hear about their achievements and turn a deaf ear when they are told what is going wrong then I am sorry to say that I see no hope for our football. As long as we keep electing the same type of people to office and doing the same thing over and over again then it would be foolish to expect different results.

Yednekachew Tessema will always live long in the memory of Ethiopian football for the love and dedication he showed to make it better. Sometimes I ask myself what he would think of the current state of our football. What would he think of the people who are making our football about them? What would he think of these power struggles?
Leonardo Da Vinci once said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’’. When we are pleading for change we are not demanding a state of the Art stadium or a revolutionary idea. We simply are asking for people who truly love the game and know all about it to come into power. Simple right? But a thing we are yet to achieve.
Our football has had enough! We can’t go through another term of ignorant and incompetent leadership. We can’t afford to. Here I am begging for the game we love so much and the country we love even more. Please stop the madness. Keep your eyes on the bigger picture. This is not about you. This is about our country and the future of the new set of players and managers of our generation. We need fundamental change in the way we view and understand football and we need it now!

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