Eritrean football: The next generation
Our storyteller from Eritrea is Ermias Ghebreleul. Ermias has been a sport columnist and reporter for Hadass Eritrea newspaper for 14 years, and is a sports reporter and news anchor for Eritrean TV station “ERI-TV”, based in the capital Asmara.
Who is in the photos?
The footballers in the photos are not professionals. They are young players in the suburbs of Asmara, Eritrea. Young students play football in the streets of Asmara during weekends. Talented amateur coaches give training to young students (both male and female) on dribbling the football, physical fitness, and generally the skills to play football. Some of the amateur players are summer trainees on the Gedil soccer project.
Most of the photos were taken in Edaga Hamus, the area around Asmara University. Most amateur football and tournaments take place there.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
I tried to show the passion of playing football in Eritrea, especially during weekends. The people and the youth follow the Premier League and other European leagues on TV. That is why these young football players wear shirts of Wayne Rooney and other professional players.
Are there any good stories connected with the people or teams you photographed?
One player’s name is Semhar. She is a grassroots trainee for a football project in Asmara. She has a great technique, and she has talent.
There are schoolboys playing soccer near Asmara stadium. As you see they don’t have uniform or jerseys or any facility. They are just enjoying a Saturday and came on their bikes, as they are off from school. Most of them are from the same school. Every player contributes 20 nakfa (about £1), and then if his team wins they take it, like betting.
Why is football so important for Eritrea and Eritrean people?
Football and cycling are the most loved sports in Eritrea. Eritrea has a long history of football. The story starts from the Italian colonisation, from the end of the 19th century. Our football infrastructure like stadiums, football teams and other facilities all started during that time period. Until 2000 and before the Eritrean–Ethiopian War, football activities and tournaments were attractive and stadiums were packed with supporters and fans. But after the war this was not as popular as before.
Nowadays the government and the soccer federation are working on changing it. Recently Eritrea had a friendly game with South Sudan - the mood was good, the stadium was full of supporters. I was there presenting live for ERI TV and reporting for the state-owned newspaper Hadass Eritrea.
What role does football play in Eritrea and Eritrean society?
Premier League football is very popular. Everyone in Eritrea, even in the rural areas, watches the Premier League. The pubs are always packed.
What is the future for Eritrean football?
The future is bright. The people have the passion to play, watch and support. But there is some lack of technical and tactical skills on the field. This is improving.