serious learning through football fun

Serious Learning Through Football Fun

Ethiopian football owes much of its existence to the personal effort of players, informal coaches, and established clubs. Formal academia and training camps contribute very little to players’ journeys and successes. A recent collaboration between the Ethiopian Football Federation and Three-Point, however, might change the status quo to give additional hope to young boys and girls who aspire to kick the ball on national and international pitches. The partnership could even become a manufacturing hub for the export of professional footballers to Europe, writes Abiy Wendifraw.

Girumneh Mekonnen is a hardworking father who wants to provide everything his family needs. After retiring from a public service job where he spent all of his working life, the 60-year-old managed to buy a three-wheeler taxi—as a primary source of earning—which he drives in Chiro town, in West Hararghe Zone of the State of Oromia.

The man who did almost everything he could for his children is facing a new challenge that has pushed him to search for prominent contacts in the nation’s sport arena. His daughter, Abigiya, 16, who has played football since elementary school wants to join a sports academy or secure a trial at a girls’ football club. She keeps asking her father if he has any updates for her.

“I do not know how it could happen, but I want to bring that good news home and see her beautiful smile,” says Girumneh. “For the past three years, I have been exploring possible ways to meet the right people. I have called prominent journalists based in Addis Ababa to help my endeavors of getting Abigiya into a sports academy.” The dedicated father traveled to the capital and even Arbaminch, over 800 km away from his hometown, to help secure his daughter’s dream.

Thousands of Ethiopian youth, desperate of finding a center of football excellence to experience and develop their skills, knock on the doors of sports institutions and other affiliated businesses. “If you are a sports journalist, it is common to receive phone calls from youngsters and their families. They always ask us for our guidance on how to find a club or youth academy,“ says Abel Jebessa, Radio Host at Ethio FM 107.8.

News that broke out from a press conference at Jupiter International Hotel in October, was music to the ears of Girumneh and his like. The Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) and Three-Point, a Germany-based company, signed an agreement to cooperatively work on a football development project which aims to produce talent for the future national team.

The man behind this initiative and investment is the 46-year-old Ethiopian-born German Teddy Rupp, Football Agent and also father of Davie Selke, a German professional footballer who plays for Hertha BSC in Bundesliga. Three-Point is already preparing to construct a four-block building where 100 talented youth will reside and study from high-level trainers. According to Samuel Bamnew, Teddy’s father who returned home from Germany to facilitate operational duties as Project Representative in Ethiopia, the construction of the building will run around ETB8 million.

EFF will provide the required plot of land in the CMC area which is part of a piece of land previously designated for a similar project involving the Confederation of African Football (CAF) which is yet to materialize. Building and initial material costs will be equally shared by EFF and the investor whereas operational costs are to be fully covered by Three-Point. It is expected that full ownership will transfer to Ethiopian football’s governing body years down the line. The modality has the hallmarks of a private public partnership with the only difference being that EFF is not a government entity, but rather a standalone organization.

EFF officials believe the partnership is a great engagement. “This is the first partnership we have made with a private football development project investor,” says Bahiru Tilahun, Secretary-General of EFF. “We are excited to start this journey with Three-Point because the project focuses on producing top-notch talent who may one day wear the national team’s jersey. Our football development department will work with them to make sure the training aligns with the Ethiopian youth training manual.”

Further details of the agreement indicate that the partnership of the two parties extends beyond technical cooperation. While the academy works towards the young players showcasing—and selling—their skills to football clubs in Germany and throughout Europe, EFF will profit from the potential compensation after successful transfers, as well as the creation of a stock of players for the future. From these transfer payments, the country’s football regulatory body will get a 40Pct share while and the academy is due 60Pct. “This is a great investment for EFF,” says Abel.

“We are planning to go operational in three to four months,” says Samuel. “The training will kick off with the first batch of 25 talents who will be provided with housing, medical considerations, and meals. We will start with the Under-17 category. The U-20, U-15, and U-13 batches will be accommodated gradually. The academy will cover all the expenses.”

Those who made it to the academy are expected to work hard to progress through a different grade of training. After a year-long stay, any failure to progress or impress cannot guarantee a space. “We are a business company, not charity. We know those who did not get the chance to join will be waiting for their turn,” says Samuel. “I am sure those players leaving us early will learn something very important that will keep motivating them to fight for their career somewhere else. The language skill and psychological support along with technical football training will also help them grow as a person.”

The services Three-Point plans to bring to Ethiopia extend to adult football professionals who want to learn skills in scouting and youth development and coaching. The investor aims to bring trainers and experts from German clubs while the training program will follow that of Hoffenheim, a Bundesliga team where his son Davie spent part of his youth career.

To make the project even more pleasing to thousands of youths in different parts of Ethiopia, Three-Point is planning to perform selection processes all over the country. “The selection will be conducted by professionals who know how to spot talent. There is no room for favoritism,” Samuel explains.

Girumneh is not sure whether the Three-Point experts will visit Chiro. “I am sure they will bring the opportunity much closer to my daughter,” he says with high hopes. EBR

10th Year • Jan 2022 • No. 103

Abiy Wendifraw

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