Feature: Ethiopia on the verge of a first World Cup

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The Black Lions currently top their qualifying group but a 3 point deduction could throw that into jeopardy

When Ethiopia defeated South Africa 2-1 in Addis Ababa the crowd at the stadium erupted into celebrations, knowing that their country had topped their World Cup qualifying group and was just one more win away from reaching the international tournament for the first time in their history.

Getaneh Kebede had drawn the Black Lions level with South Africa at 1-1 before the visiting team scored an own goal in the 70th minute and conceded victory to the Ethiopians, taking themselves out of contention for a second consecutive journey to the World Cup.

However, very much like the country’s chequered footballing past, the Walia Antelopes (named after a unique population of lions that are only found in Ethiopia) have run into complications and could still miss out on the final play-off game.

Officials at the Ethiopian Football Federation hadn’t notified national team manager Sewnet Bishaw that Minyahile Beyene was due to serve a ban after two yellow cards in previous matches and so shouldn’t have been present in an essential 2-1 win over Botswana (similar cases have already occurred to Togo and Equatorial Guinea this year).

The penalty is that the three points would be awarded to Botswana so that South Africa was only two points behind Ethiopia with one more game to go against the Central African Republic, whom they beat 2-0 previously.

Ethiopia’s road to the World Cup has never been successful, and at times has not even started. When they first attempted to qualify in 1958 their application was rejected outright by FIFA who made them wait until 1962. Between 1962 and 2014 they have failed to qualify on nine occasions and didn’t even enter the other four times (for the editions in 1966, 1990, 1998 and 2010).

The reason for the most recent failure to enter qualifying was because the EFF had been banned by FIFA due to government interference. The government assembly got involved in the Federation and sacked its president Dr Ashebir Woldegiorgis because of poor results, installing their own elected leader.

This recent development is certainly going to anger Black Lion fans who are only interested in seeing their team qualify for a major international tournament, and will want an end to the incompetence of both the EFF and national government who insist on meddling in football affairs.

image: © freestock

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