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Making Football What It Really Can Be: Eri Youth’s Passion, ENFF and FIFA


FIFA, as we know it, has been the corner stone of talents worldwide the most prominent world football organization which strives to make football a hub of friendship for the global community. With the election of its latest president, Mr. Gianni Infantino, FIFA seems to be setting a new horizon for Africa. Discovering the flairs of African footballers has given the new president a ‘must-do’ task in his presidency’s agenda. His visit to Eritrea in March was the news highlight for quite some time.

Eritrea has a long history of football and cycling. Before its Independence in 1991, Eritrean athletes were destined to play for Ethiopian teams. So much so that in the early 1960s the Ethiopian football National that won the African cup had 90% Eritrean foot-ballers. After Independence Eritrean football started on a good track but had its slopes

The Eritrean Commission of Sport has assessed methodological approaches and investments for a sustainable growth in football. In collaboration with FIFA, the Eritrean Commission has focused its attention on children players starting at grassroots level.

On Eritrea Profile’s issue published on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, the news read: “Two young Eritreans to take part at football for friendship”. The news went on to explain that Abel Solomon and Aminadab Yonatan would take part at the football for friendship project organized by FIFA in connection with the Russia World Cup 2018. The news thrilled many Eritreans. Although these two little boys, aged ten and eleven, are going to Russia only as part of the football for football project, for Eritreans it has been the source of zeal in this past week, especially, to the football faithful.

Football for friendship is a FIFA project aimed at safeguarding international values, including humanitarian and natural values, through sport. Children involved in the project are encouraged, again through sport, to learn to live peacefully, respecting cultural differences. The project has been going on for a while but for Eritrea it is the first time. Previously, with the magnitude of the project, only few countries would be granted participation but this time around, FIFA called for the participation of all the countries in the world. The thousands of children, two from each country, from all over the world will be integrated to form one big group and rejoice in the warmth of sport.
If one perceives with conceited judgments, then, yes, it is just football for friendship. However, for a community that has been craving for a breakout, having Abel and Aminadab on that flight to World Cup Russia, is sure, a light of hope.

Abel and Aminadab will, of course, perform according to the layout of the project but they will also represent their country. They will talk about their history and share underlying notions of their Identity. They will also be able to show their talent. As Abel and Aminadab are two of the tens of thousands of young boys and girls involved in the national project of grassroots, the hope is for them to show the international community that’ll gather for the World Cup in Russia, an inclusive prospect of what Eritrea young footballers are really made of. Certainly, no one can miss an alien feeling, as such, Eritreans, having known what it feels like to have golden days of football, they certainly are anxious to hopefully be there again. Abel and Aminadab are now the hint of hope of many Eritreans.

I had the delight of speaking to the little stars, Abel Solomon and Aminadab Yonatan, prior to their departure. They told me that ever since the news broke out, people have been coming up to them in the streets and each leaving a piece of wisdom. What to do, what to say, how to play and more. I had to ask if they felt pressured by all of this sudden attention. They looked at each other and then turned to look at me with a ‘Miss, you don’t know who you are talking to. We’re tough kids’ gaze. However, they told me that they have been getting incredible amount of love from their peers and the general public and that they find it encouraging. Football for Friendship and World Cup Russia mean so much to these two young stars who dream of being like Lionel Messi and one day play for Manchester United.

In order to understand the impact of grassroots and the plan the Eritrean National Football Federation has, in technical collaboration with FIFA, I spoke to Mr. Daniel Yohannes, technical director of the Football Federation. With a vision of revalorizing the legacy of Eritrean football, the National Federation of Sport convened the initiative to start its endeavors from zero and seek slow and gradual advancement from there. The Eritrean National Football Federation Technical Department was established in 2010. The office’s first project was a situational analysis on the current situation. With detailed data analysis, the office agreed on the slop national football faced and from there looked for resolutions which all indicated to a reformed beginning at grassroots level. Subsequently the office mapped a time frame for sustainable growth through studied technical approaches and methodological investments. The overall solution pin pointed starting from the base, raising awareness and making football an educational tool through which children are disciplined enough to conceive football as a big part of their studies. As a matter of fact, children in the grassroots program, mostly perform well in school. The first grassroots program was first launched soon after the establishment of the Football Federation Technical Department with a program focusing on children of age 6 to 12.

The activities in the grassroots program are extremely elaborated and also based on technical and scientific layouts. The office’s first task was raising awareness amongst the children, their families and schools. The second was standardizing all practical and theoretical activities encoded in the grassroots program according to the official standards of FIFA. Though with some difficulties, the Technical Department is working hard towards fully accomplishing and expanding a standardized program for all young footballers in the country. Effective results are expected as efforts are vested in the vision.

Moreover, in answering how Abel Solomon and Aminadab Yonatan were selected to participate in Football for Friendship, Mr. Daniel Yohannes, Technical Director of the Football Federation, said that, with every decision the federation considers the psychological impact it may have on the children. Therefore, Abel and Aminadab were not elected by the votes of the trainers of any adults for that matter. In the presence of the children’s representative lots were drawn and the two names got picked up.

The Eritrean National Football Federation and stake holders are striving to invigorate football to what it used to be, and more. And to that end FIFA has been a great motivator. Above all the credit goes to the kids who reserve a big place in their hearts for football.


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