Success in the Face of Stereo Types
Just two months ago, Senait Bogale was crowned the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation Sports Personality of the Year in the female footballers’ category. Inspired by her siblings, four of whom are professional footballer players, Senait’s journey to success began at the age of 13 when she entered a local football training project where only boys were welcome. It did not take long for her to win the hearts of recruiters and win the Women’s Premier League title and other trophies with Dedebit Football Club. She was also part of the U20 national team in 2016. EBR Adjunct Writer Abiy Wendifraw sat down with the 20 year-old footballer to learn about her journey and future hope.
After congratulating Loza Abera, her club team mate who just won the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) Sports Personality of the Year Award in the female footballers’ category last year, Senait Bogale, one of the three nominees, couldn’t help crying. She knew her family was eagerly awaiting the final announcement and she felt she had let down them. When she got home everyone in the family surrounded her. Her father hugged her and said “My daughter…You are my winner. You are still growing. Just keep up your hard work and you will have it all.”
It did not take her long. Senait clinched the same title in the same venue that she left in tears 12 months ago. Receiving the best female player of the year trophy and ETB75,000 in prize money on the stage during the ceremony last month, she had words for the audience, both in the hall and the millions watching her live on television. The former Dedebit Football Club midfielder took the chance to pay tribute to all the victims of the recent attacks in Burayu, just outside Addis Ababa, before thanking her family and the coaches.
“I worked hard to win. But that night, I had even more reasons to take the prize home. My dad was grieving because his relatives and close friends were among the victims. He didn’t sleep the previous night and was busy trying to communicate with the affected families in the morning. He was devastated. The media was not covering the story,” Senait remembers. “On my way to the award ceremony, I wished I could bring the trophy home to put my dad’s mind at ease. I did not expect him to cheer or celebrate, but I wanted to see him smiling. I think the award came at the right time to my family.”
Although her father, Bogale Boyizo, is a traditional cotton weaver, the football gene in the family is strong among the siblings. Four of the eight children (four brothers and four sisters) in the family have played football at the top level. Birhanu Bogale, 32, who now plays in the Ethiopian Premier League for Wolwalo Football Club was a member of the national team that participated in the2013 African Cup of Nations. His younger brother Fasil Bogale is also a premier league player. Their sister, Genet Bogale, is now retired after playing in Addis Ababa’s division championships. Being the seventh child in the family, Senait was the last to reach the pinnacle of success in domestic football. Winning the Women’s Premier League title and other trophies with Dedebit, she was also part of the U20 national team. Last year, she secured her spot in the seniors’ national team.
To get there, Senait had to go through years of hard work. She was the only girl to play football with the boys at her elementary school. “I love football. I remember some negative reactions. People think that is a bit weird for a girl physically challenging boys on the pitch. But for a football loving girl, like me, that was the only choice available. I was the only girl who really wanted to play at that time. So I kept playing with boys.”
When she was 13, Senait entered a local football training program where only boys were welcome. Yet the seventh grader did not realize this critical move would pave the way her future career path in football. “I talked to the trainer. I said ‘Allow me to join the training, please.’ He agreed. Having all the training with boys for months, I got the chance to play for a local women’s team competing in Addis Ababa Division.”
It did not take long caught the eye of a regular spectator: Asrat Abate, a coach known for spotting rare talents including Loza. In 2011, Senait signed with Dedebit, where she won three league titles. “Everyone in the family, including my dad advised me in my career path. But the person behind my success is Asrat,” says Senait praising the coach that she publicly acknowledged on stage receiving the EBC award. “He was my mentor. When I went to Dedebit, it was not easy. The midfield position I could play in was packed by the best players at the time. I had to compete with two and three of them. It took me two years to become a team regular. I was tempted to leave but he told me to be patient. I owe him a lot.”
Asrat eventually left Dedebit, but his role in developing Senait did not stop. He took her career to the next step when he was assigned to coach the senior female national team in 2016. “She loves the game. She works hard. I always tell her weaknesses and she works on them. I do not remember praising her or admiring her qualities. I always preferred to remind her flaws. When I heard her calling my name to acknowledge at the award stage, I was humbled,”says Asrat.
Senait’s seven-year spell at Dedebit ended last summer and now she is in pre-season preparation with Adama City Football Club, which signed her for two years with a monthly net salary of ETB27,000. With her brothers, she tries to support her family financially. “My mom used to sell Ambasha to bring in extra income. When I was a kid, the entire family lived in a single room. Now everything is getting better. We have a happy family,” she says. “I am lucky to play football and earn money for it. I always dreamed of playing in a professional league abroad. Representing my country at the Africa Women Cup of Nations and other major tournaments is also my wish.”
The one thing standing between the 20 year old playmaker and her dream to play abroad is the absence of women’s continental club competitions under Africa’s football governing body CAF. “Unless we qualify for major tournaments with the national team, we have a slim chance of catching the eye of foreign club scouts. Considering the talents we have, yearly continental competitions (like CAF champions’ league and Confederation Cup) could have given us the chance to display our potential. Personally, I prefer focusing on my training and see what time brings,” says Senait.
7th Year • Nov.16 – Dec.15 2018 • No. 68