HE IS A MAN OF MANY PROFESSIONS. HIS NAME POPS OFTEN TIMES IN SOCIAL MEDIA, MAKING US ALL WONDER WHO HE IS. MEET, TODAY, ON OUR Q&A, MR. MICHAEL SEIUM, AN ERITREAN JOURNALIST, SPORTSMAN AND ACADEMICIAN.
- -Tell us about yourself, please. Most of your life you lived in the United States but you were born here in Eritrea, right?
At the time I was born my family lived in Addis Ababa, but I was born, here, in Asmara. We used to come here every summer for three months. I studied in Addis Ababa but didn’t live there for long as my mother was involved in clandestine activities linked to the armed struggle, and we had to get out of there. So, with the help of her comrades, we first came, here, to Eritrea and then fled to Sudan. After a long journey my family was reunited in the US.
- -How do you define yourself at this point of your life?
All I want to say is that I am blessed because, now, after many years of several experiences, it is the perfect timing for me to come back to Eritrea to share my experiences in terms of being in sports. I love my country and so does my family. We breathe Eritrea through thick and thin.
- -What can you tell us about your experiences as a sportsman?
I am not an athlete at the highest level, but I have reached the college level. That in America is pretty high. I played different sports. Soccer was number one but I also wrestled in high school and played tennis. Then I got a scholarship and my brother and I were recruited. I studied journalism, and after college, I focused on sport because I was passionate about it. So, I decided to work at a local TV Station in South Carolina. After that because sport is a difficult thing to get into in different parts of the country, I ended working in sports news. I worked in one of the earliest stations of Fox.
I worked with a TV network that had eight TV stations around the States. They needed, in Washington, to cover their news for the day for their particular cities. So, I worked for different stations in Atlanta, Georgia, and Seattle, San Francisco. The company was called COX news.
- -When did your journey towards defending Eritrea begin?
I had an opportunity to work as a manager, in 2003, in an independent News Network called Washington News Network. It was a good opportunity for me because it allowed me to do my activism for Eritrea. A lot of people would feel rather uncomfortable, but I really love my country so I was not scared at all and kept on working. I was able to do a lot of live satellite connections between Washington and Eritrea.
- -What was your experience like working in Aljazeera English?
Aljazeera English started in 2006. I worked as a sports producer but mainly worked in the satellite works. I was actually there when Aljazeera built its database of studios around the world. So, the first time they had a live show in Aljazeera English I had five different cities. Unfortunately, Aljazeera English didn’t turn out to be as I expected them. I thought Qatar and Eritrea had good relations but the TV service was harsh about the stories about Eritrea and its people. At the end of the day I decided to stop working there. They called me back, sometime later, and asked me to go back for them but I refused.
- -And in academic circles, what is your story there?
That happened by accident. George Maison University was having a huge sports conference and I went to cover it. The director of the department was pleased with the coverage and asked me to present a paper at a conference the following year. I realized that that could have been a good opportunity for Eritrea to be known as a sporting country; its history and how it grew. It turned out well and people loved it. This was in 2014. Later on, the director of the department asked me if I wanted to join the school. I thought about it. At that time my first daughter was four years old and I hadn’t spent much time with her because I was always working and travelling. So, I decided to go back to school and spare more time for my daughter. I studied sports management. I got my master’s in International Sports Management. I am getting my paper actually now even though I finished my work two years ago. That is because they are trying to turn my thesis into a book. I finished my thesis and then got involved in the United Soccer Coaches which is the biggest organization of soccer coaches in America. Currently, I am pursuing the academic in sport and making connections with Eritrea.
- -What is your thesis about?
It is about Howard University’s soccer legacy. Their soccer team won the National Championship in 1971 and there was actually one Eritrean that played for them, Andemichael. They also had all African players. Some were from the Caribbean and just a big squad of players from black communities. That same year, the NCAA took the National Championship from Howard.
- -All of your experiences combined are what make you the ‘Mike Seium’ as you are known here in Eritrea. Tell me about your recent visit to Eritrea and in what way you are planning to contribute?
I want to share my experience and through the meetings I have had with the Eritrean Sports Federation I understand that there is so much we can do. I have been following the National soccer program for many years now and I got to meet the people in the federation and we have agreed to work together. I also met with the swimming people, the track and field people and more sports people. We are going to focus on the information center and managerial aspects.
- -Anything you want to say at the end?
I love my country. We have talent here and the legacy of Eritrean soccer is unique. But we have been lagging behind with the war and the sanctions. Now that it is almost over it is time to standardize and bring more people into the effort. There are a lot of Eritreans abroad ready to bring their knowledge back home.