Ethiopians have used their lifestyle itself to stay fit: they walk in abundance to and from schools and markets; they spend hours running up the hills and down to the rivers while attending to their livestock on the pastures. That lifestyle seems to be changing in recent decades and years. Now, urban settings are hosting modern gyms which house people exercising with the goal of being fit. These scenes in gyms also bring strong women of various backgrounds. From the fit looking to get fitter and the overweight looking to trim some fat, gyms entertain various individuals with divergent mental and physical stances. Abiy Wendifraw shares an uplifting story of one of these strong women whose life has been changed by just going to the gym.
The news was big. Clarence Seedorf, regarded as one of the most successful footballers in the history of the UEFA Champions League, was in Addis with the trophy of the biggest club competition in the world. The coming of the retired Dutch Footballer and Coach was welcomed by hundreds of football lovers who managed to meet him at events organized by Heineken, UEFA Champions League sponsor.
“I am super excited to see him in person, and having a closer look at the trophy made me emotional,” said Henok Belay, 34, a European football lover in Addis. “The Champions League is my favorite football competition, even better than the World Cup. Seeing Seedorf reminded me of beautiful football nights from my childhood.”
Though information of the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour was announced weeks before the event, the name Seedorf did not seem to catch the public’s attention, like Ronaldinho did in 2018. The Brazilian legend had a heroic welcome by thousands of residents in Addis and a few others who traveled to the capital from regional towns.
On April 12, when millions of football fans were waiting for the decisive quarter-final second leg fixtures—Chelsea vs Real Madrid at the Bernabéu and Bayern Munich vs Villarreal at the Allianz Arena—the UEFA Champions League twitter page, with 40.5 million followers, managed to mention Ethiopia in its tweet. “A trophy couldn’t go to Ethiopia without his old friend,” read the tweet showing Seedorf’s selfie picture with the trophy. This exited Ethiopian fans.
Yet social media circulated the news with some arguments on the tour’s relevance to Ethiopia. Henok does not seem to be affected by the negative comments. “Everyone knows that the Champions League is European, but it is also of Africa. African players have graced the competition’s history. But the competition is really connected with me and my childhood friends. We used to watch live games in Ethiopia when we had only one TV channel in the whole country. Its anthem is also in my blood. I don’t have words to express how I feel when I hear that melody.”
Nathnael Mitiku, a young man in the art world took no time to take advantage of the event when he heard Clarence was going to come. He presented his special painting to Seedorf on the press conference at Sheraton Addis, on April 10, 2022. “It has been a while since we started the ‘Sport and Art’ project with the theme ‘Football for Peace’ and ‘Football Unity’. In collaboration with Girum Seifu, Senior Sport Journalist at Addis Admas newspaper, we are planning to showcase different paintings to communicate our message for peace and unity.”
According to Girum, Seedorf is a symbol of unity and peace in football. “He managed to feature in many of the Derby Della Madonnina contests between the cross-town rivals—AC Milan and Inter Milan. I think the world is looking for unifying factors and football is the one. Now the World Cup 2022 is coming and it is a great opportunity for us to leverage our legends like Seedorf.”
In his exclusive interview with EBR, Hubert Eze, Managing Director of Heineken Breweries SC, stated that the tour is an important occasion. “The whole purpose of the Heineken Trophy Tour is to bring the championship and its legends closer to the fans and youth of the country. Like Clarence said, we need to inspire our youth and encourage them to work hard to achieve greatness, which we know we have in Africa and of course in Ethiopia. That motivation and that ability to dream is why Heineken is doing this.
“I can also borrow the words of Seedorf: football is a unifying game and we see it. A small ball that people pick around brings a lot of things like passion and emotion in people. That is true across the world and I do not think Ethiopia is different. So, we hope it will have a positive impact, not only among footballers but for the whole country.”
Esayas Jira, President of the Ethiopian Football Federation who attended the welcoming press conference, believes in the tour as well. “Having football legends here is good; it inspires the youth and we should take advantage of it. The message is important and we need to take that seriously,” said the President in his short interview with EBR. “This is how you feel the impact among the youth, by meeting a legend like Seedorf who boosts the spirit of kids in our football projects. Players like him aspire to build, not just a successful football career, but also a way to impact after retirement.”
For the man leading the country’s football governing body, having a legend like Seedorf in Ethiopia at this time is a reminder to us all of how powerful football is. “Had it not been for football, we might not have been able to bring him home. We all know how different countries are discouraging their citizens from traveling to Ethiopia. When you have such a legend like Seedorf in Ethiopia at this time, you realize how football transcends situations and politics.”
EBR 10th Year • Apr 2022 • No. 106