Today’s guest is Fisseha Wolde Amanuel, once a jewel in the crown of Ethiopian football. He was locally nicked named ‘Koas Fidelu” (The ball artist) considering his dexterity, advanced football skills, tactics and intuitions. The footballer was as well nicknamed “the bombshell,” “the bullet” and what not owing to the way he rockets the ball into the net sometimes bending the blocking hands of goal keepers. To the chagrin of many fans here and at the global arena, innumerable balls he shot were deflected by goal posts.
He was one of the famous versatile footballer Ethiopia ever had. Representing Ethiopia, he as well had played in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh African Cup of Nations.
He was among the shining stars of St. George football club for some years. During those years the club basked under three consecutive winning streaks. Then he left to the United States of America for higher education.
As he was the linchpin of the Ethiopian national team’s success, he had won the admiration of football fans in the continent and beyond at some stage in his time. Above and beyond, Fisseha had partook in the USA major league soccer with world renowned contemporaries like Pele, Beckonpauer, Youhan Kroiope, Eusébio, among others.
He is also one of the founders of Ethiopian Sports Federation in North American (ESFNA). Currently, the Federation comprises thirty three teams .Parallel to soccer development activities, he had served as president of the Federation for five years.
The Ethiopian Herald had a short stay with the Ethiopia football icon Fisseha Wolde Amanuel with the intention of familiarizing his personal and professional life with readers. Excerpts:
Let us begin with introducing yourself to our readers.
At the outset, I was born in the heart of Deder in 1943 EC and grew up in Harar where I started school. I have six siblings—four brothers and two sisters. When I was a child, my full focus was on football as it meant everything to me. Football and I had attachment that defy description. I have a lot of memories from the football pitch to cherish in my old days. I still entertain a passionate feeling for football with all my heart.
As my dad firmly believed in changing one's fate via education, he was bending our ears with pieces of advice to be outshining students. That is why, my siblings had pursued education further. My dad used to remark that “Education is an insurance of life!” To the surprise of many, as my full focus was on football, I did not care a fig about education. As such, I was not in the position to lend my ears to my parents.
There was no stone my dad left unturned to make me distance myself from football and concentrate fully on my studies. He was in the habit of dressing me down and sometimes walloping me to get back on track. At that juncture, forty to fifty youths were coming to our residential house over and over again. Without exaggeration, one could mistake our house to a youth center. We all involved ourselves in an assortment of competitive sports activities.
What was the next move?
When I became a seventh grader, I came to Addis Ababa and joined Dagmawi Menilik School. Almost immediately, I kept on playing football there too.Via my magical football skills, I turned out to be the talk of all and sundry in the school compound within the shortest time possible. I was partaking in a variety of football competitions. Success was on my side.
It did not come as a surprise for me to hear laudatory remarks about my football skills and tactics. When I was promoted to grade ten, I kick started playing football for the Body Guard Team. At that juncture, recruited from the Body Guard Team athletes Abebe Bikila and Mammo Wolde and others were chosen for the National Athletic team.
As all Ethiopian National Team players were all exceptional, Ethiopia grew to be the winner of the third African Cup of Nations. That way Ethiopia became an emerging star in Africa.
What was the Ethiopian National Team like at that point?
There were famous footballers in Ethiopian squad such as Mengistu Worku, Italo, Luchano, among others. All the footballers who helped us snatch the third African Cup of Nations were amazing ones. The team was second to none. Team mates' Chemistry was out of this world. I had acquired a lot of skills and tactics from the team members as the arts of football were at the tip of their fingers. As the team was very unique,they breathed life in to the nation's as well as the continent's football. The footballers who partook in the third African Cup of Nations representing Ethiopia were all well-armed with football skills, tactics, techniques, and all that. To cut a long story short, the team was a fully-fledged one. It was an irreplaceable one. The team spirit was also indescribable in words.
Later, when I joined the national team, I also grew to be successful in next to no time.
What number African Cup of Nations did you partake?
I joined the national team in the Forth African Cup of Nations. Before that, I was transferred from the Bodyguard Team to St. George club along with my colleagues. We joined the main St. George football team. We had spent many successful years at that point. I managed to score a high-five provoking goals. We won three cups for St. George club in a row and got various awards considering our achievements.
I had a very close relationship with most of the footballers. Without exaggeration, all of them were exceptional footballers. Our names and St George’s club were almost synonymous .
After that, taking my success in to account, I was made to play in the Fourth Cup of African Nations recruited in the Ethiopian National Team. In fact, I had played for the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh Cup of African Nations matches.
To the surprise of many, though we lost the game, the national team that partook in the sixth African Cup of Nations too was very special next to the team that partook in the third cup of Nations. During the third African Cup of Nation, team members had strong affectionate bond and supper chemistry to each other.
How did the National Team fail to win the sixth Cup of Nations?
At first, we were determined to win the sixth African Cup of Nations no matter what the cost may be. We did not expect something unforeseen would come to pass. We were merely focusing on how to achieve the desired leading goal in a little while. Just then, we were playing against Congolese National Football Team.
As ill luck would have it, we ended up missing the desired goal when our opponent scored a goal following our defensive player’s mistake. To be honest, the goal broke everybody’s heart in a short time. We really got mad. We did not know what we had to do.
The unexpected instance poured cold water on our efforts. We all got confused. We felt as though the whole sky fell on us. We could not play with free mind, former posture and zeal. Hence, we even missed open and easy goals in this regard. The goal really had broken the entire National Team players and the general public's hearts. We lost Chemistry. Besides our love was not that strong. The cessation feeling of Eritrean players was mounting at that time. I think that is ascribable to the dampening of our moods. To my mind, football tasks inexorable fight until the last whistle is blew. It needs perseverance to the end whatever the outcome may be. To the best of my knowledge, as it is true of success in life a goal is not a windfall as one does not simply score out of the blue. One proves victorious when one works hard.
What was the reaction of the general public following the result?
Before I come to the point, I would like to say a few things about the reaction of journalists. First of all, journalists were in the habit of amplifying Ethiopians footballers’ skills every so often. Not few took as for African Brazils. There were a lot of talented footballers in the Ethiopian National Team.
Flipping back to the gist, everyone was not in a good mood considering the tear-jerking results of the National Team. All and sundry, regardless of age and sex, were smote by grief. We were dreaming of winning the Six Cup of African Nations and repeating the victory of the Third Cup of Nations. But all our efforts went up in smoke.
Rearding Ethiopia's football, Yidnekachew had played a great role in taking the Ethiopian football to a new chapter of success. But at this moment in time we are losing the intended target.
What is your take on Ethiopian football?
The Ethiopian football is seen going downhills every so often. The management is as well going off the track. Unenthusiastic, some are seen doing things unexpected of them. As long as we are working for our country, we should give our due. As history is on the making,we should act now. We may not get a second chance. We need do our job as we should. We should serve the country anchored in our respective profession. If truth be told, I have seen little improvement in the Ethiopian Athletics Federation. A case in point, Haile Gebreselassie’s taking over of the Athletics Federation is a big achievement. Up on hearing the news I really felt on top of the world. He is the one better placed for the position.
As for me, assignees should be recruited based on merits skills and knowledge. If they do not chime in to the position, we cannot achieve the desired goal however hard we aspire to strive forward. Our focus should not be money or gaining position. At this moment in time, our federation is turning out to be the talk of everyone. As pioneers of the African Football, we must not really relegated to the bottom rows, where we are in nowadays. When I left the country the population of Ethiopia was 25,000,000. But today it is estimated to be more than 130,000,000. We do not have to come clattering down from time to time. It is really sad. We should give priority to our country.
What should be done to take Ethiopian football team to a new chapter of success?
As far as I am concerned, apart from giving training to children in various age categories, there should be enough football fields in every nook and cranny of the country. More to the point, youngesters should familiarize themselves with various ways of football techniques, tactics and skills. They should as well hold a football match with different teams. These way we can identify our strengths and weaknesses. No sooner than the game kick-started, coaches should be able to pinpoint where the problem of the game lies within fifteen minutes. Aside from exposing them to various matches at different time at different age categories, training should be given to children chapter by chapter.
In the same way, stadiums or roads should be named after the famous athletes and footballers of Ethiopia. Society lions do not simply live and die. Their names live above the grave. We should live for Ethiopia. We should give our all to Ethiopia. Though, we are the founder of African Football, tragic as it may sound we are lagging behind.
How did you establish Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America?
At the time I left for America for further education, I started playing football. We were holding a match on a regular basis. After that, we kick started playing in four states. At the beginning, there were four clubs. Then they rose to eight. After sometimes, it grew to sixteen. At the present time, the number of clubs has risen to thirty three. I was president of the North American Ethiopian Sports Federation for five years. Every year, Ethiopians from different parts of the world come to involve themselves in the marking of the special day. It is colorfully celebrated. Famous Ethiopians from all walks of life are invited to partake in the event.
How do you describe your contribution to Ethiopia?
As I have tried to mention so far, I had partaken in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh African Cup of Nations representing my country. I had made an effort to give all what I had.
At first, my intention was taking care of my children and grandchildren for the reason that my age is advancing. I had a lot to contribute but I did not get the chance to give what I have.
The good things is, I have born into life a charity organization Agar, Ethiopian Youth Association. It operates in the most impoverished communities in the city focusing on education, health and sports activities by providing different supports through parents and/or guardians. More often than not, Agar focuses on providing personal and educational support to orphans and vulnerable children, supporting activities in the mental and physical development of children and youths, contributing in the national effort of reducing homelessness amongst the youth and creating brighter future for the youth, family and communities in Addis Ababa. I get help from different bodies. Most of the financial support come from America. That is from my fans who know me very well at the time when I played for the national club and St. George … They helpe Agar of their own will. Some of them make pledges. We help the children through their grandparents, aunts, older sisters, neighbors, and what have you. Agar helps students graduate in various fields of studies at this time. One of them has turned out to be a medical doctor.
As a final point, is there anything you would like to convey?
Our brain is bordering on minerals. We do not have to limit ourselves. We have to challenge our limits. We can be whatever we would like to be. Nothing shall be impossible. We should get ourselves ready for everything. I testify that Ethiopians are very active. They are capable. They are all successful. Most of them living in American are climbing the ladder of success in different fields of studies. As I have observed, among all Africans residing in America, Ethiopians prove highly intellectual. They get different awards every so often. They are very successful in different walks of life.
BY ADDISALEM MULAT