It has been three and half years since the newly elected members of the executive committee of the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) took office. Through the years, various works have been undertaken to develop Ethiopian football. Under the current EFF executive committee, the Ethiopian Premier League is governed by a Share Company and has advanced its marketing methods, increasing its revenues through sponsorship deals. The EFF is currently preparing for the 2020 AFCON tournament, which is scheduled to take place from January to February.
Bahiru Tilahun, a former Medhin football club player and sport radio FM host, is the General Secretary of the EFF. The former sports journalist was first appointed as a public relations expert before being appointed as the general secretary at the federation. Dawit Tolesa of The Reporter sat down with Bahiru Tilahun to discuss the overall journey of the EFF in the past three years.
The Reporter: You were working as a sports journalist for a radio station and now you are the general secretary of the EFF. How did you get the chance?
Bahiru Tilahun: Well, I was working in a school at the moment. During that time, there was a live football broadcast program on 98.1 FM radio station. One of my friends was a co-worker with the host, Mesele Mengistu. He asked me to replace him because he had to attend his brother’s wedding. After that, I had a chance to discuss with the host. In 2016, Mesele opened a radio station and we moved to the new station. Afterwards, I started to host shows on local and international sport issues, while I was working at the school.
I always wished I could one day work in the Federation. Fortunately, the EFF was looking to hire a public relations expert and I applied for that position. Finally, I joined the EFF and started a new journey, where I ended up taking the responsibilities of the general secretary’s position.
Do you think that you have improved the federation’s PR department?
Following my arrival, I tried to change old ways of communication. Previously, all information regarding the federation was provided via an email for all media houses. I immediately changed that way of providing information to the media. Journalists should find information through their own efforts. So, I tried to change that platform and opened various social media accounts instead. Now, we have Twitter, facebook, telegram accounts and official website.
Thus, there was a comprehensive gap between the media and the federation and I have tried my best to improve our communications department.
How do you compare being a sports journalist and general secretary of the federation?
Well, there is a big difference between journalism and being part of the federation. When you are a journalist, you criticize every issue. There were journalists setting agendas only to show the negative side of the federation. I was not that kind of person while I was a journalist. As a journalist, we had to know what the responsibilities of the national federation were and properly identify the degree of accountability. I recognized that there were various issues that journalists needed to know before criticizing the national federation.
It has been more than three years since the new committee members took office. How do you evaluate the work done?
We have been working on various issues to improve Ethiopian football. To just mention some of the major concerns, the Ethiopian Premier League (EPL), the grassroots project, the marketing issues and the CAF camp were among the main issues. We have managed to establish our own league company, advanced our marketing mechanisms and increased its revenue.
We also managed to finalize the CAF academy, which was not in service for eleven years. Now, our national teams reside in the academy, cutting hotel expenses. Meanwhile, we have also signed an agreement with Israel and China football federations in order to share experience with the Ethiopian U-17 national team.
Furthermore, we have started a pilot program for the U-15 in all regional states. The U-17 annual premier league competition and the higher league competition are now improving continuously as well. So, we are still planning to do better and develop Ethiopian football.
The Ethiopian national team qualified to the 2022 African Cup of Nations (AFCON). Tell us about the overall preparation?
Regarding the upcoming tournament, the coaching staff has already commenced their technical preparations. We are also preparing at an administrative level and the national team will travel to a preferred country on December 26, 2021. Our national team needs to prepare for a minimum of 12 days in the Middle East or Western African Country and will have two friendly games.
However, these are very expensive to prepare and we are waiting for a government budget to cover for the preparation costs amounting to 41 million birr. We are seeing positive signs from the government’s side and we are hopeful that we will have a great competition in Cameroon.