Ethiopian Business Review

For the Love of the Game

In Ethiopia, there are many English Premier League enthusiasts. Manchester United and Arsenal in numbers of fans in the country. However, football clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City are now gaining momentum and attracting a growing number of supporters in Ethiopia. In fact, supporting football clubs in the English Premier League, is now advancing to new heights after Manchester City’s supporters in Addis Ababa took the initiative to create a connection with the club in England. Also known as Man City Addis, the fan club now has 240 registered Manchester City fans that pay a 10 euro membership fee each year. EBR Adjunct Writer Abiy Wendifraw looked into the activities of the fan club.

Each week across Ethiopia, thousands of English Premier League lovers, largely Arsenal and Manchester United fans, flock to see their beloved teams. Those supporting the other side often struggle to find show rooms, restaurants, and hotels which show their teams playing.

Kumesa Shifera, 18, who lives in Midakegni, a small woreda in the state of Oromia, is one of Manchester City’s fans. When Everton thrashed Manchester United at Goodison Park on April 21, 2019, Kumesa did not know that fixture was going to be the last game of the season he would watch live on TV. He cheered every goal against Manchester United sitting among frustrated and angry supporters of the losing side. As Theo Walcott, the former Arsenal player, brought the score to 4-0 in the 64th minute, Kumesa’s screams and wild celebrations weren’t very well received. The man who owned the DSTV show room surprised him with an abrupt slap in the face and showed him the door. Feeling helpless, the 10th grade boy left.

“I think I made him angry that night,” Kumesa laughs. “He told me to stay at home next time and I knew I was going to miss all the other games. I did not see the Manchester-Derby game three days later. He owns the only show room in Midakegni and he loves Manchester United. Every football lover in town knows United’s fixtures get priority because of him.” Fans of the other big teams like Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool also get the chance to see their teams playing. Manchester City, with Kumesa as its solo fan, comes last in the pecking order.

But this type of situation doesn’t seem to be a concern for Manchester City fans in Addis. A well-organized fan club, Man City Addis, is now taking the initiative to arrange a place to watch their team every week. Members are also welcome to play with their fellow fans during Saturday games.

“We have goals to achieve here. We want to create an environment where Man City fans meet and build a community” says Amanuel Amare, chairman of the fan club. “We organize different events where the club members meet and watch games. Man City Addis has an office and staff to facilitate regular tasks.”

It all began in 2008 after Amanuel returned to Ethiopia from the US where he lived for 29 years to launch a business. “In the United States, I was not a football fan. I started to follow Man City when Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan took over the club in 2008. I used to travel to England and watch games. Knowing the popularity of the Premier League in Ethiopia, I felt we lacked formal representation over there. I met with people who shared that same idea and moved to establish the fan club,” says the 43 years old.

In Addis and other regional cities, there are fan groups for the larger clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. But most of these clubs are informal groups mainly present on social media. So far, Man City’s Addis Ababa fan club is the only officially recognized fan club in the country.
Man City has already been transformed by United Arab Emirates’ ruling family and is on the way to becoming a global corporation. As a result, Amanuel believes being the second most populous nation in Africa makes Ethiopia a potential market for the England based club. The football obsessed younger population makes the country attractive to any club with an ambition to go global.

“The fan club is working to meet its goal of enlisting 1,000 registered members in three years. Right now we have 240 Manchester City registered fans who pay a 10 euro fee per year,” he says.

English Premier League lovers in Addis Ababa, which is hosts one of the largest diplomatic representative populations in the world, are not all Ethiopians. Man City Addis also has foreign members who join the group for the weekly games. There is also some interest from residents of other cities in Ethiopia to join the fan club in Addis, according to Amanuel.

Formally formed in February 2018, Man City Addis is now the Addis Ababa branch of Manchester City’s Supporter Club. The parent club even arranged free tickets for members in Addis to travel and watch Man City’s games in France and Germany.

Having got the green light from Manchester City, the supporters club in Addis is planning to open a football academy for Ethiopian youth. “Like our parent club, we have big goals and one of them is to aid in producing the next generation of elite Ethiopian footballers. This is why we want to found a youth academy,” reads the proposal Man City Addis prepared to request a football pitch.

The fan club is currently going through the formal process to be registered by the government. It is also living it up to its commitment of serving the community, which drawing more attention on social media.  

At the end of last April, the group visited the Charity Association of Destitute and Abandoned People and donated ETB 30,000 in cash and ETB 20,000 worth of items in kind.

Using their presence on social media, Man City Addis are now inviting the club’s fans from all over the country to work with them. One of the fans who contacted the Addis Ababa office was Kumesa. Impressed by his courage, Man City Addis contacted him by phone and promised to send him a team shirt.
Kumesa says he cannot wait. “I’m so eager to put on that jersey and stand tall in front of the man who barred me from watching my beloved team. Above all, I cannot wait to join a group who wear my colors and cheer for my team.”


8th Year • May.16 - Jun.15 2019 • No. 74


 

Abiy Wendifraw

Special Contributor

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