“The future is promising” Professional football coach Nahom Ghidey

Articles - Q & A

Today, we chat with Nahom Ghide, a professional football coach who was born in Asmara and grew up in Germany. Nahom now lives in Stockholm, where he works as a coach with professional club AIK Stockholm. He has helped develop many exciting players, including Alexander Isak. Part of Nahom’s mission is to help support the growth and development of the game here in Eritrea.

  • -Could you tell us a little about your background?

I was born in Asmara in 1968. My father was involved in clandestine activities, so he was kept prisoner in Addis Ababa. My siblings and I first fled Asmara to seek refuge in Keren under the protection of freedom fighters. We were there for almost eight months. We loved playing music, so we joined the ‘Keyehti Embeba’ cultural troupe. In 1979, during the EPLF’s strategic withdrawal, thousands of residents of Keren and the surrounding region had to flee to Sudan. We were with them. From Sudan, my family moved to Germany and that is where I grew up. We came back after Eritrea’s independence.

  • -As a child, was football something that you eventually wanted to get into? I believe you also had love for music?

During a large period of my life as a child I was involved in making music so football was never my main dream. However, I played soccer for many years. It is something young Eritreans are fond of. When my family moved to Hanover, Germany, my siblings and I all played instruments and we made music, especially nationalistic songs. Our songs reflected our love for the homeland.

Nowadays, in Europe and North America, Eritrean communities organize massive gatherings where the young and old come together to celebrate their identity. Back when I was young, it was similar but on a smaller scale.

After the country’s independence, we came back to Eritrea and worked on opening Admas, a studio of our own where many of the hit songs in the early 1990s were recorded. We had great success working with some of the big names in the Eritrean music industry. Those years after independence were especially joyful years. Later, in the late 1990s, we saw the unfortunate border war, which had many consequences. Many things changed and businesses slowed down, including ours. Later, I moved to Stockholm and settled there with my wife and sons.

  • -Was that the end of your artistry?

Yes it was.

  • -What about football? You’ve previously spoken about your dream of building a strong national team here.

I believe it is all part of my destiny. I am an Eritrean and it is natural to think of our country. I got into football because of my two sons. They used to play soccer when they were younger and I was in charge of driving them to practices. As I was in Asmara a lot, whenever I went back to my sons I liked to spend time with them. I would kick some balls while waiting for them. Slowly, some parents started noticing that I could mentor the local youth team. I refused at first, mainly because I didn’t think of settling in Stockholm and I couldn’t speak the language. I still had a plan to move my family back to Eritrea once the war was over. After some time, however, I agreed. That is how I got into football. I was happy to have found a hobby in Stockholm. So it has been thirteen years since I got into football.

  • -You have accomplished a lot as a professional coach with the team AIK. Can you tell us about it?

AIK Stockholm is Sweden’s top team. Henok Goitom, an Eritrean, is currently the captain. AIK is also the team that helped in the development of Eritrean Alexander Isak. I worked with them and other players. We have more than 1,000 youth players. Over the years, from training children I moved to the AIK Academy. There, we train youth players who are highly likely to become professionals. As I moved up levels, I enrolled in various training and educational programs. I am obsessed with learning. That is how I got my license UEFA – A license. During the past two years, I have been working with Vasalunds, mentoring senior players. I have one level left and that is a license reserved for coaches of senior teams. For that, throughout all of Sweden there are only ten posts open per year. I hope that I will achieve that one day.

  • -For you, I guess all roads lead to Eritrea?

This is where I think that it was predestined. Eritrean football has a long and proud history. How things unfolded in Eritrea, both pre- and post-independenc e , have hindered many aspects of development and progress. However, it is not too late for us to work towards our visions now that peace has been attained. I have big hopes for Eritrean football. I know for a fact that Eritreans are talented. I have met many young footballers, within the country and abroad, who have passion and are disciplined. The fact that I got into football and the timing of it makes me think that maybe this was all set out for me. I feel like my future collaboration with ENFF will be great and that it was fated.

  • -What can you tell us about your meetings with ENFF and what your collaboration will be like?

I really can’t say because this is just the first phase. I met all of the mentors and directors there. I followed some of the practices and the Eritrean Youth National Team made me so proud with their performance against South Sudan.

However, we still need ample assessment of our players’ strengths and we need to analyze what kind of formation will help them get the best performance and result. We need big investments in academies to gather talent from across our country, and we will also have to work on enhancing the expertise of coaches. There is a lot of work ahead. The future looks promising.

  • -Anything you want to say at the end?

I hope that the legacy of Eritrean football will be restored. I hope for a strong national team so that we can sell our players to big teams around the world. That way Eritrean footballers already playing on other teams come to play for the national team. It will take time but we will get there. I am positive. Moreover, I want to thank everyone I met at the ENFF and to express my gratitude for their hard work. Last, but not least, I would like to express my appreciation for young Eritrean footballers. I am so proud of them.