Starting Sunday, more than 30,000 people with Ethiopian ties will be in Renton for a weeklong soccer tournament (ESFNA 2017) that also offers a cherished celebration of Ethiopian culture through music, food and dance.

By Emily Giambalvo (The Seattle Times) |

Surafel Wodajo’s most cherished memory from his childhood in Ethiopia is sitting on the cement floor in his living room watching Zinedine Zidane, a French soccer star who was in an Italian league at the time, on his family’s black-and-white TV.

Armon Tenaw, who now plays on a team with Surafel in Seattle, can’t pinpoint when he was introduced to the sport. It’s just always been there. He remembers playing on the streets, at school, everywhere.

Because in Ethiopia, soccer isn’t just a sport, it’s the sport.

Starting Sunday, Surafel, Tenaw and more than 30,000 Ethiopians will be in a place where soccer is king and they are surrounded by their culture. For seven days, Renton Memorial Stadium will become an Ethiopian haven of music, food and dance thanks to the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America’s 34th annual soccer tournament (ESFNA 2017).

“Soccer is the vehicle of bringing everybody together,” said Surafel, a 27-year-old who plays for the Seattle Baro. “But really what it’s about is coming and celebrating being Ethiopian and enjoying our culture.”

Thirty-one men’s soccer teams from around North America, including the Seattle Baro and the Seattle Dashen, will play in the tournament that runs in conjunction with a cultural festival.

The weeklong event, which is returning to the Seattle area for the first time since 2004, serves as a reunion of sorts for Ethiopians across the continent. (According to a 2014 study, about 6,100 Seattle residents were born in Ethiopia.)

Continue reading this story at The Seattle Times
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