History clearly indicates that the passion of the game derives from the great players of the country who happen to be the founders of not Eritrean soccer alone but African soccer in general. However due to the fact that this country of Eritrea was subjugated and occupied by force, the potential of the Eritrean soccer players never really materialized. Enter the 1990's when Eritrea for a short time enjoyed it's moment to shine. It was just starting to grow the seed of the future when in 1994 a group of youngsters went to the Scandinavian countries to compete in the Norway, Dana, and Europe's top youth cup the Gothia Cup in Sweden. The Eritrean teams made us all proud and by now could have made some headlines individually or as a team. Even an internationally acclaimed player spoke highly of them as Ronaldinho of Brazil was a participant at the same event. However another chapter in the countries short term peace was once again distracted as a war was waged on the entire nation including the soccer program I may add as many of the talent pool had to defend their nation. As a result the process of restructuring the national program has become a bit difficult. In an internet discussion group some of us were discussing why players leave and could it be for selfish reasons?
(Names have been omitted to keep the discussion private) But indeed it is great to see Eritreans discuss this sports matter in an open forum)
One person wrote
"Can we just stop walking on EGGSHELLS and call this for what it is? A bunch of selfish ambitious obnoxious soccer players that don't have a problem embarrassing or throwing their country under the bus for their own gain. Thank you."
Another replied to the writer above,
"before accusing these youngsters of throwing their country under the bus for their own gain, we need to ask a qeustion if the Eritrean Soccer Federation is doing its best to retain young talent or if it has created some type of systemic incentives to retain their passion for sport as well their passion for the country. Remember, a young MIND is a Dreamer and also Adventurer but it is also Vulnerable. The Federation and the Government must pay close attention to these sort of talent-drain instead of simply describing in one sentence saying, "This problem is not Eritrean only, this is a problem of African youths all over the world.“
Like most youth in Africa and Eritrea who in my opinion have an idea that immigration would bring better opportunities, for some it may be the right thing to do but based on many experiences for most it has been a tough battle to make it in professional athletics as it is in regular life. The New York times wrote an article on the Eritrean soccer players travels to Rwanda for the world cup qualifications titled, "Where soccer has been a one-way ticket out" and to me this indicates that the interest of this media coverage by one of the world's leading papers is motivated by what has happened in the past couple of years. The negativity of the stories that filled headlines everywhere indicating that Eritrea was this horrible place that treated it's people bad and a bunch of other lies were the motivations for past articles and this article is a follow up to that. If this publication or for that matter any other publication that wants to tear apart the Eritrean people and govt. had any decency they would have written about the just ended CYCLING race for the continent of Africa in which Eritrea shined as host and participant. Better yet forget the sports headlines for a moment the New York times had a story on it's step yard when 8,000 Eritreans flocked from all over the USA to meet and greet their President in September 2011 but not a single story indicating what took place. Why? Because Eritrea and it's people were the biggest stars sports or not on that day.
In any case while the loss to Rwanda will keep Eritrea out of the next world cup in Brazil, Eritrea has a chance to shine in the adult version of the CECAFA cup taking place later this month in Tanzania. Eritrean players have a chance to redeem themselves and get their first big trophy in soccer as they face 11 other teams with Malawi being the only guest team in this big event. Eritrea will be in Group C along side Sudan, Kenya and Malawi. Meanwhile Group A will have Tanzania, Rwanda, Djibouti and Ethiopia, while Group B will have Uganda, Burundi, Zanzibar and Somalia. Most of Eritrea's players are from the CECAFA under 20 championships that made it to the finals in Asmara last year and with a great future ahead of them, I hope to see them put Eritrea on the right path to success. Meanwhile may be they can learn a little from Coach Negash Teklit who played for the first Eritrean team to play in CECAFA in 1994 and is currently setting a positive example of trying to maintain a strong National team as a coach despite many obstacles.
Good Luck to Eritrea and like everything else in the nation building process the Eritrean national soccer team will one day reap the benefits and will make the country proud.