Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Eritreans and College Soccer, The Untold story.

Eritreans and College Soccer, The Untold story.

There may be many outstanding Eritrean soccer players participating at the University and college levels, semi-pro and even professionals such as Henok Goitom who plays in the Spanish first division however the story that is about to be unfolded will focus on the success of Eritreans throughout the USA that have contributed to the growth of the college and proffesional game at every level. There are plenty of people who may not know that the college game in the US has produced some top notch Eritrean soccer players and exemplary citizens. It is also slowly becoming a farm system that helps the United States national team to become a contender in the international game.

(Picture)Amdemichael Selassie who has been a part of the Eritrean sports festival and active member of the Eritrean community in the metro DC holds a an NCAA national championship award.

Just a brief introduction of the history of the game at the college level, in 1933 The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), governing body of college athletics in the United States, released their official rulebook covering all intercollegiate soccer in the United States. Five years later in 1938 West Chester State College from Pennsylvania a state the size of Eritrea and Salisbury College from the bordering state Maryland played in the first intercollegiate soccer game under floodlights. Around the same time The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) was organized by 10 coaches attending the annual meeting of the intercollegiate Soccer Football Association of America in New York. In 1959 the first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics college championship was held in Slippery Rock, PA.

Pratt Institute was victorious over Elizabethtown College 4-3 both very small colleges. Meanwhile the first NCAA championship tournament was held in Storrs, CT. as St. Louis University defeated Bridgeport University 5-2. While the NAIA focused on smaller colleges the NCAA dealt mainly with bigger colleges and Universities. Eventually as more schools of higher education started to grow, even the NCAA had to create three divisions in all of its collegiate athletic competition. While it does not apply to the game of soccer at the collegiate level, currently the NCAA division one has even gone into creating a division one double a portion mainly for the American football game.

So how do Eritreans fit into this picture? Well based on first hand knowledge and some research and phone interviews we have come up with an incredible result. You see, the role played by Eritreans at the college level and the contribution to the game by Eritreans has lead us to some information that includes amazing achievements. It was in the late 60's and 70's and many young students as well as soccer players were arriving to the United States to pursue education from Eritrea and the horn of Africa region. Since Eritrea was under Ethiopian occupation most of these athletes were illegally acknowledged as Ethiopians until of course the year 1991 when Eritrea proved that it is a sovereign country. Add to that the racism that took place in many parts of the United States against blacks and minorities the obstacles faced were many.

With that in mind we will start of with the story of a National Championship player from that era. He was also a big star as a goal keeper for club Electric in Ethiopia before he made his move to the United States. A very strong figure Amdemichael Selassie who has been a part of the Eritrean sports festival for years as well as an active member of the Eritrean community in the metro DC area is the only player we have been to allocate as a member of a national championship NCAA division 1school. Andat as his friend’s call him played in goal for the 1974 Howard University Bisons that won a national championship against the University of St.Louis. Howard defeated St. Louis 3-2. However, Howard's participation in the tournament was later vacated by the NCAA, and the championship reverted to St. Louis. Just a year before in 1970 Howard University played against UCLA in the semi finals of the NCAA division where another Eritrean played for UCLA.

His name is Berhane Andeberhan and most of you have never heard of him. Andeberhan, who has served as an assistant coach and technical adviser to the Cornell University women's soccer team for over7 years while pursuing a Ph.D. in food science, was the director of soccer and women's head coach at Stanford from 1987 to 1992. He guided the Cardinal women to a 77-26-11 record, including an outstanding 49-7-2 slate his final three years. In each of those three seasons, Stanford played in the NCAA playoffs, making the quarterfinals in 1991 and 1992. Following his coaching tenure in Palo Alto, Andeberhan served as Stanford's liaison to World Cup 1994. A member of the U.S. Soccer Federation national staff since 1976, Andeberhan has served as national coach for the under-20 women's team, a youth and senior regional coach, an Olympic Festival coach and an Olympic development coach. He was a member of the technical staff sent by the U.S. Soccer Federation to the first Women's World Cup in China in 1991. He is also a member of the U.S. Soccer Coaches Organization and National Soccer Coaches Association of America.Prior to coaching at Stanford, Andeberhan was the men's soccer coach at Cal State-Los Angeles for six years and was inducted into the Golden Eagles' athletic hall of fame on Feb. 2 of this year.

In 1981 his team finished with a 20-3 record and reached the NCAA Division II championship game. He was named the Met Life Far West Coach of the Year in 1981 and earned conference coach of the year accolades five times. After Cal State-Los Angeles moved to NCAA Division I in 1985, Andeberhan led the team to a 12-4-1 record, an NCAA tournament appearance and a top 20 national ranking. The Golden Eagles won two conference championships and posted a 74-34-14 record during his tenure. In 1984 he was director at the soccer and team handballtraining sites for the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games.Coach Andeberhan attended UCLA on an academic scholarship where he earned his BA degree in Zoology and was a member of the first ever Bruin varsity team and he served as captain of the team in 1971 when the team was an NCAA finalist. He holds an MS in Microbiology from Loma Linda University and is a Ph. D. candidate in Food Science at Cornell University. In addition to coaching he has taught collegiate Microbiology at Cal State Los Angeles and was a Research Specialist at Cornell University. In soccer he holds a Brazilian ABTF International Professional Coaching License and the US Soccer A License and has attended numerous national and international seminars.

He has been a member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for 26 years. Coach Andeberhan currently resides in Sacramento, California where he is director of the Capital Athletic soccer academy. He has also played a big role in the history making woman's soccer national teams of the US as well as some US men's national team members. Former U.S. Men's National Team member Martin Vasquez and professional players Carlos Juarez and Larry Draluk are just some of the top male players Anderberhan has developed. Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy, Shannon Higgins and Brandi Chastain are among the many WNT players he has coached. He is currently trying to build a non-profit organization along side a friend by the name of Berhane to provide soccer balls to Eritrean youth. He plans to make the noble cause a bigger picture and indeed it is an honor to discover an Eritrean-American with such a great career and who is planning to help the game grow in both Eritrea and America. For more on his project just visit the website by clicking on the following While this has been a very timely and important information we would like now like to proceed with more on those who have accomplished a successful collegiate career in the United States.

Yes! He won the George Levin Memorial award given to the best soccer player at his college a private college in the State of Maine. Former Ambassador Girma Asmerom who to this day holds several scoring and assist records at Bowdoin College ranks as one of the top players of his time where he scored 32 goals in just three years of playing. Ambassador Girma went on to get a masters degree in international studies from American University in Washington D.C while he was an assistant coach for Federal City College currently known as UDC (University of the District of Columbia). Ambassador Girma eventually went back to help the Eritrean fight for independence where he eventually came back to be an ambassador. He is currently the Eritrean ambassador to the European Union.Talking about Federal City College now known as UDC, there were more than 6 Eritrean players who played for the final four NCAA Division two championship Semi finalist team in 1974. Eritreans were all over the place in the 70's and many young people don't seem to have any idea, I hope this well documented research can serve as an inspiration to all our future stars.

We now focus on some of the new comers and some recent players. I the mid to late 80's I along with my brother played in one of the most competitive leagues in the country for smaller colleges in the state of South Carolina. Francis Marion University is now an NCAA division 2 school and was ranked number 1 in the nation recently. It was even a pleasure to have taken the Washington D.C Eritrean team for an 8 hour drive to play a friendly game against my Alma matter at a time they were ranked # 1 in the country for more than four weeks and finished in the NCAA top 8. The DC team without any rest lost a close game 3-1.

In the mid 1990's Johannes Habtegaber also one of the best players to play for the University of Maryland showed that college soccer can take you far. He won a championship with Team DC in the 1991 version of the ERSFNA and then went on to help Team Alexandria win 4 more championships making him one of the few individuals to have accomplished that feat. Current notable youngsters that are playing or just finished playing include ERSFNA MVP player Araya Berhane who won a championship with Team Worira last year by showing some excellence.

Habtom Haileab is one of the most dangerous offensive threats in both the Peach Belt Conference and in the nation. A playmaker in the Clayton State University Lakers midfield that distributes the ball effectively with great speed and quickness he has become a threat to score each time he touches the ball. A legitimate All-Peach Belt Conference & All-Southeast Region. Despite playing with a broken hand, Hailab Habtom recorded a hat trick to lead Clayton State University to a 5-1 win over Francis Marion University, two seasons ago on Tuesday evening (Oct. 24) in a quarterfinal match of the 2006 Peach Belt Conference Men's Soccer Tournament. Who would have thought another Eritrean would make my alma mater look so bad many years later? It's all good, no hard feelings (ha! ha!).

Also from a coaching stand point we have found one more person following in the footsteps of legendary coach Berhane Andeberhan in the State of Washington. Biniam Afenegus, Greater Saint Helen's League (GSHL) Class 3A coach of the year, has been named the new men's soccer coach at Clark College in Spokane Washington. Afenegus has spent the last nine years coaching for high schools and premier club teams in the region. Biniam was born in Eritrea. His family relocated to Spokane, WA when he was a child. He attended Concordia University from 1995 to 1999 where he completed his bachelor's degree in K-12 Physical Education and Health. He earned his master's degree in education from Concordia University in 2003. While playing soccer at Concordia, Afenegus earned all league and all regional honors. He currently holds a United States Soccer Federation National "C" license.

We will have more information on more college soccer players present and past in the very near future and when all this is said and done the aim and goal of the Eritrean Sports federation in North America Public Relations dept. is to work on a College bank of players that have accomplished a lot at the college game be it coaching or playing, eventually the plan will also lead towards other sports. Here below we will go list by list with names of Eritrean players past, present and if there are people forgotten or our research has not allowed us to include you please feel free to contact the ERSFNA Public Relations officer who has been a passionate advocate of college soccer and would like to see more young Eritreans showing that they are good role model citizens.

Mike Seium Public Relations officer can be contacted by e-mail: or

List of college players so far gathered. (P.S contact us if you wish to be added to the list)

1. Amdemichael Slassie/ Howard Univ. 1971 national Championship NCAA Div 1

2. Berhane Andeberhan/ UCLA 1970 NCAA Finalist NCAA Div 1

3. Yemane Tewolde/ Federal City College (UDC) Final 4, 1974 NCAA Div.2

4. Gedlom Afa/Federal City College (UDC) Final four team 1974 NCAA Div. 2

5. Johannes Habtegaber/University of Maryland College Park 1990's NCAA Div 1

6. Michael Seium/ Francis Marion University late 80's NAIA/NCAA Div. 2

7. Samuel Seium/ Francis Marion University late 80's NAIA/NCAA Div. 2

8. Aklilu Seium/ Frostburg State University late 90's ( NCAA Div. 3

9. Girma Asmerom/Bowdoin College, Maine early 70's NCAA Div. 3

10.Simone Mariotti /King College Charlotte, NC (NAIA)

11. Daniel Berhane/University of Central Florida mid 2000 NCAA Div. 1

12. Zegai Habtom/University of Central Florida mid 2000 NCAA Div. 1

13. Berhane Habtemariam/Federal City (UDC) 1974 NCAA Div. 2

14. Yemane Yohannes/Federal City (UDC) 1974 NCAA Div.2

15. Bereket Tseggai/Queens University Charlotte early 1990s.

16. Mussie Manna/Alabam A & M Early 1990's

Mike Seium

Eri-International sports


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