2013 Nations Cup: Ethiopia back on the Afcon football pitch after 31 years
With just days to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, Ethiopia will carry the hopes of East Africa.
The Waliya Antelopes are top of Group A in the African zone of World Cup qualifiers, and reaching the 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa marks a new dawn for the country.
The games will be held in South Africa from January 19 to February 10.
It took Ethiopia 31 years to stage a comeback to the most prestigious football tournament in Africa.
Coach Sewnet Bishaw believes the team will not be pushovers. “We beat our rivals Sudan to book the ticket and this was by no means a fluke,” he said.
“We really worked hard for it and people should know that. We wanted to qualify for Afcon and knew what was at stake, we went past all those hurdles and we won’t make it easy for our opposition.”
Bishaw said despite being grouped with defending champions Zambia, heavyweights Nigeria and plucky Burkina Faso, their eye is on the title.
Cecafa secretary general Nicholas Musonye said Ethiopia qualifying is an indication that football in the region is growing.
“We are excited that Ethiopia qualified, and in East Africa we will all rally behind them,” said Musonye.
Ethiopia is not only dreaming of making a mark in the continental championships but they are also aiming to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Bishaw says they will not let East Africa down.
Ethiopia is the fourth nation from this region to qualify to the competition since 2004. Kenya played in Tunisia in 2004, Rwanda qualified in 2010 and Sudan was in the 2012 championships.
Fifty years ago, Ethiopia was among the most feared sides on the continent, playing in the first seven Nations Cup tournaments, beating countries like Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Algeria.
Ethiopia is one of the three original teams (along with Egypt and Sudan) to participate in the inaugural Africa Cup of Nations in 1957 where they finished second.
They hosted and won the competition in 1962, but in 1968, also on home ground, the team finished in third place losing to Ivory Coast.
In 1976, Ethiopia failed to progress to the final four, finishing third in the group, behind Guinea and hosts Egypt.
In 1977, they played against Mauritius in the qualifiers for the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations. After a 4-2 win on aggregate, they had to play Uganda. After a nil-nil score in the first leg, Uganda won the second match 2-1, and progressed to the finals.
The Ethiopians also missed the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations. Ethiopia last qualified for the tournament in 1982, under Coach Mengistu Worku. They are currently ranked 118th in the world, according to the FIFA world rankings, and 33rd in CAF rankings.