Aschalew Tamene—center back for Saint George FC—was voted best player of the Ethiopian Premier League (EPL) season 2015/16, which was concluded a week ago. Like many young children in Ethiopia, he started playing football with his neighborhood friends in a small field around his village in Dilla town of the Southern Regional State. He continued playing football as a hobby in a local group in the town and at school. While he was playing football for his school, Dilla Elementary School, he was recruited for a football project in the region. He was then selected to represent Dilla at the national league. Because he showed great skill, he was then transferred to play in the premier league with Dedebit FC in 2013/14 season. After playing for two years with Dedebit, he joined Saint George FC. He was also a member of the Ethiopian National Team under former coach Yohannes Sahle. Dawit Tolesa of The Reporter sat down with Aschalew to discuss his football career and future plans. Excerpts:
The Reporter: How did you start playing football? Can you briefly walk us through your journey?
Aschalew Tamene: Well, I started playing football when I was a child with my friends in my neighborhood and in school. Because of my performance, I was selected to play for the school. It was during that time that I was recruited to be part of the regional project along with 250 other players. The training provided by the coaches helped me a lot. That was where I developed my skills. It was a good opportunity to show my talent. Right after that, I was selected to be part of what is called the ‘Best of South’. While I was playing for the Best of South, I got a chance to play for Dilla town at the national league level.
You played for the Best of South and Dilla town and then joined the Ethiopian Premier League. How do you describe your time in the EPL?
Grabbing the attention of coaches is not an easy task. During my time at the national league, I had to work hard to prove to myself and the coaches that I was good. So, in my second season I started playing in almost all of the matches. At that time, Wolaita Dicha was interested in signing me. That was the time the club was promoted to the Ethiopian Premier League for the first time. However, it didn’t materialize because of contractual issues. Later, former Dedebit FC and current Ethiopian National Team forward, Getaneh kebede, who now plays at the South African Premier League, started talking to the official of Dedebit about me joining the club. However, before an agreement was reached with the club, the management wanted to assess my performance at a preseason training, which was held at Bishoftu. Then they decided to have me onboard I signed a two-year contract to play for Dedebit.
You played at the national league for Dilla town and are now playing in the premier league for Saint George. How do you describe the difference between the two leagues?
Every football player around the world wants to play in the top league because, playing at that level will help boost your performance. Apart from that, being able to play with players whom I was watching on TV has always been something I wanted to do. It is not only playing with them; working hard to compete against them has always been my dream.
On the other hand, while playing in the national league you will face various challenges. National league matches are mostly held in regional towns and most towns lack sports facilities, proper security, and, at times, stadiums. Schedule of the games, the way fans support their clubs and the skills of coaches are not up to par when compared to the premier league. These are the things that make the premier league preferable. But that doesn’t mean that there are no problems in the premier league. Still, in the premier league things will get a swift solution easily. It was because of this that I was so happy when I was signed to play in the premier league.
What are the challenges witnessed in the premier league?
Today, football is not a game that you play just to score goals and win titles. Rather, it is a means to provide solutions to conflicts and wars. It is also a mechanism to create a strong relationship between countries located in different continents. So, the governing body needs to administer this valuable activity so that all competitions and tournaments are organized properly and safely. For example, in this year’s EPL season there were various clashes between fans of different clubs, which resulted in the injuries of many supporters. This is not the right way to develop our football. Many of the clashes arise from opposing or rejecting the decisions made by the referees. We have to bear in mind that referees are human beings and they might make mistakes. Therefore, the decisions made by the referees should be respected. Correcting and avoiding such clashes in the future is the major responsibility of the governing body of Ethiopian football. The federation also needs to put the exact schedule of games and implement it accordingly. In order to make the league professional, it’s ecessary to have a correct follow up system.
You have been selected to be part of the national squad. How does it feel to shoulder such a big responsibility?
Next to playing in the premier league, it was a big deal for me. It is also a big opportunity to play with experienced players and be able to represent my country.
You have been chosen as Best Player of the 2015/16 Season. How does it feel to be such a player?
It gives me great pleasure. I was so happy on my achievement and I want to thank my friends and family members for that. First of all, I would like to thank. Almighty God. My gratitude also goes to Getaneh Kebede and my family members.
What are your future plans?
I want to play in professional leagues abroad. I also plan to help young players in my home town, Dilla. Though I have already started to help some of them by providing them with kits, I want to expand it as much as possible.