The Ethiopian national team, the Walias, have commenced preparations ahead of the upcoming 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification third round match. The Walias are set to face Niger on November 9, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused cancellations or postponement across all sports. The suspension of the Ethiopian Premier League meant that players had to stay home for the last 7 months.
Following the 2021 AFCON qualification matches, the Walias have commenced their preparation at the CAF academy a couple of weeks ago. The recently appointed new Coach Webetu Abate has called-up 41 players for the third round qualifiers match against Niger.
From the players called-up, only five were unable to join regular training due to positive COVID -19 tests while two players playing abroad were not included. Two other players were excluded from the squad due to injury.
On Wednesday, the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) called a press conference to brief media about the overall preparation of the national team. During the press conference, Webetu announced that the players are fit to face Niger, putting to rest rumors of players gaining weight following the long stay home period that accompanied the advent of the pandemic in Ethiopia. He further noted that settling in the CAF academy has helped the team curb the possibilities of contracting the virus.
The Walias were set to travel to Bahir Dar for their preparation; however, the plan was revoked and replaced by preparations in Addis Ababa following the onset of the pandemic in Ethiopia.
To aid their preparation, the Walias played Zambia in a friendly match at Addis Ababa Stadium on Thursday and lost 3-2 to the visitors. The two sides will also face each other off once again on Sunday.
This will be crucial to determine players’ fitness, since the Ethiopian national team had not played a competitive match since its 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on November 19, 2019. It was a home match for the AFCON qualifiers in Bahir Dar international stadium.
“It has been a long time since the national team players played any match due to the stay home measures. We are preparing twice a day to get our players in shape. The friendly match will also help us evaluate the fitness of players going into the main match,” Coach Webetu said.
Abraham Mebrahtu was in charge of the national team until his contract expired on August 6, 2020. It is then that the EFF appointed Webetu as Coach of the national team under a two year contract. He is well known for his 2011 EPL title win with Ethiopia Coffee.
Ethiopia is currently second in its qualifying group with three points following a draw against Madagascar and a win over Ivory Coast.