The Ethiopian government’s plan to improve football infrastructure in different parts of the country is getting locals offside
(The Economist) Broken windows; fraying nets; chairs with missing legs: the Yidnekachew Tessema Stadium in Addis Ababa has seen better days. Rehabilitated by Emperor Haile Selassie after his return from exile in 1941, it was once a proud monument to Ethiopia’s restored independence following five years of Italian occupation. In 1962 it hosted the African Cup of Nations (AFCON); the national football team—known as the ‘Walias’—won. But the Walias, like their stadium, have struggled since. In 2012 they ended a 31-year stretch in the wilderness by qualifying for AFCON; in 2013 they duly crashed out in the first round.
Enough is enough, says the government. Ethiopians are proud of their sporting heritage: the country’s long-distance runners are among the best in the world. “We were the founders of African football,” says Juneydi Basha, the president of the Ethiopian Football Federation. Addis Ababa hosts the African Union; the government wants it to host AFCON, too.
In every major town, new football stands are going up. The federal government, which is paying, says eight “world-class” stadiums—each with a capacity of at least 30,000—are being built. Six smaller ones are also under way in the capital.
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