Ethiopia and the African Cup of Nations
It’s now the 3rd world football competition in terms of cumulative TV audience coming after the FIFA World Cup and Euro Championship. Held every two years, the African Cup of Nations participants has increased to 16 compared to the first ever cup which only included 4 countries. And this is where the history of Ethiopia and the African Cup of Nations begins.
The origin of the African Cup of Nations dates back to 1956 when the creation of Confederation of African Football was proposed by FIFA. On the next year, 1957, the first Cup of African Nations was held in Khartoum, Sudan. There was no qualification for this tournament, the field being made up of 4 nations. Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and South Africa. South Africa insisted on selecting only Caucasian players for their squad due to nation’s apartheid policy led to its disqualification and as a consequence Ethiopia was handed a bye straight to the final. Hence only two matches were played, with Egypt being crowned as the first continental champion after defeating Sudan at the semifinal and Ethiopia on the finals with a score of 4-0 on Saturday February 16th 1957 in Khartoum, Sudan. Egypt hosted the second Cup of African Nations with the participation of the two nations. Hosts and defending champions Egypt were crowned winners after defeating Sudan at the finals.
Ethiopia Steps up
The field grew to include nine nations on the 3rd Cup of African Nations in 1962 in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. For the first time there was a qualification round to determine which countries would participate in the tournament. Host Ethiopia and defending champions Egypt received an automatic pass and were joined by Uganda and Tanzania. Ethiopia played against Tunisia and won with a score of 4-2. Egypt passed for the finals after defeating Uganda with a score of 2-1. The stage was set. Ethiopia vs Egypt. Ethiopia’s national team was determined to win the tournament and get revenge on Egypt.
On January 21st of 1962, the match started. Taking place at Haile Selassie Stadium in front of 30,000 people and the then Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie. The whistle was blown and the game started. People chanted and sang showing their support for their national team. Egypt took the lead on the 35th minute. Ethiopia equalized at the 74th minute but Egypt took back the lead at the 75th minute. Tensions were rising. Egypt wanted to keep their streak and Ethiopia was determined not to lose in front of their Emperor and their people. On the 84th minute Ethiopia scored a goal and equalized. The crowd went crazy. Ethiopia was not going to give up. The match went into extra time. GOAL. On the 101th minute, Ethiopia scored a goal. Egypt was about to lose and they knew it. To make matters worse on the 118th minute Ethiopia added one more goal. The country swiftly turned to celebration. The Ethiopian team made History. Ethiopia hosted and won the 3rd Cup of African Nations.
Ethiopia kept on trying to keep this winning streak going. Even though Ethiopia participated on the African Cup of Nations 9 times from 1957 to 1982, this was the only time they would emerge victories. The people of Ethiopia lost their confidence on their national team. Ethiopia was not even able to pass the qualifiers for 31 years, that is till 2013. Hosted by South Africa, Ethiopia was able to pass after defeating Sudan 2-0. But this tournament was short lived. Ethiopia couldn’t even make it past the group stage. The people that celebrated after seeing their country on the big stages after 31 years was disappointed. And again, Ethiopia couldn’t live up to its glory days.
Chance for Redemption
Yesterday, Tuesday March 30th 2021, Ethiopia passed for the tournament after losing to Nigeria 3-1 but went through Madagascar and Niger match ended with a goalless draw. This gave Ethiopia a ticket to Cameroon. Ethiopian people celebrated again. Proud nation. Now Ethiopia has a chance to redeem itself. Get back to its former glory. It’s true the true that the Ethiopian national team needs work to improve and win the tournament. But just making it after so long and just getting a shot at the title give the people hope. This is it. This is the chance for redemption.