After a tumultuous nine months, the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) has finally elected Esayas Jirra as its president on June 3, 2018 in an election that was held in Semera town, Afar Regional State. Initially, the new president secured 66 votes in the first round of the election process but this was not enough in securing the position since a ‘50 plus vote rule’ forced another round of elections. Nevertheless, Esayas, in the second round, was able to secure 87 votes allowing him to sit at the helm for four years. Esayas was born in Western Wellega, Oromia Regional State where he acquired his Diploma in Biology and later received his BA degree from Haromaya University. In 2002, he served in the Ministry of youth and sports at Wereda level in which due to his outstanding performance, he was promoted to Jimma town for the same cause. In 2009, he served in the Ministry of Youth and Sport as sport promotion head. He was also president of Jimma City Football Club and deputy president of Sebeta Sport Club. He has served as a president of Jimma FC when the club was promoted from the National League to the Premier league. Dawit Tolesa of The Reporter sat down with the newly elected Ethiopian Football Federation president to discuss the election and prospects of Ethiopian football. Excerpts:
The Reporter: After long delays and bitter conflicts, you have become the new Ethiopian Football Federation president. Tell us about the process of your candidacy to the position?
Esayas Jirra: I was initially approached by the Oromia Football Federation to take part in the election. I was not that much interested at first. My desire was to transform Jimma Aba Jiffar Football Club and I was occupied with my private work. After a relentless pressure from the Oromia Football Federation and weeks of negotiation, I decided to consider the offer.
How was the process of the election?
The process of the election was very vigorous, filled with queries and long delays. There were gaps in the election process observed in the federation and there was the absence of a code of electoral practice in the election proceedings. It was handled in emotion but not in expertise. After FIFA intervened and recommended its election code, it got better. In spite of that, the federation was also forced to hold another round of elections with a new electoral committee and came to a conclusion in Semera town, Afar Regional State. Lack of expertise and emotional drive were the major challenges that led to the delays and confusion in the election process.
After winning 66 votes in the first round, the federation electoral committee was obliged to hold another round of election due to the 50 plus votes rule. Then you won 87 votes. Do you think that it was fair holding another round of elections? What is your take on that?
First of all, the election process was not democratic. The electoral committee failed to comply with the 50 plus rule. Teka Aseffa, Junedin Basha and I, as candidates were not allowed to comment so we decided to remain silent. We knew that they were not right. We told this to some participants and these participants went on to tell them that they were wrong. They failed to accept their direction. I was aware that even after securing the 66 votes; it didn’t comply with the 50 plus votes. They have violated the guiding principle. That was a major error.
When the committee decided to hold a second-round of voting, you left the meeting. Why did you decide to do that?
Many people thought that I left the meeting. It wasn’t like that. When I observed the members of the assembly leaving the hall with disappointment, I went out to convince them that they had to get back. On top of that, I left to explain to them the 50 plus vote rule. If I didn’t go out and persuade them to get back, I was quite sure that there would be another conflict.
Rumors have it that Ashebir Weldegiyorgis (MD), the candidate from Southern Regional State withdrew from the election because he thought you will win. Some also say that he has backed your election. What do you say about that?
When all the candidates campaigned through media, I did not do that. I was engaged in drafting an eight-year strategic plan with the Oromia Football Federation. It helped me a lot as a concrete campaigning tool. I have been involved in sports for over 22 years. The rumor about Ashebir is not right. Maybe some think that way because he spoke on the radio stating there were 33 votes in Oromia and he said that I had more chance than others in winning the election.
What are the measures you think have to be taken to tackle the football crisis the nation is currently facing?
I cannot say we have to do this and that sitting here. We have prepared an eight-year strategic plan. Of course, I believe that Ethiopian football is in crisis. I strongly argue that this happened because of the failure to comply with the rules and regulations and absence of implementation of those rules. Additionally, there is also a problem of race/ethnicity. Our first task should be tackling this problem. My short plans will also involve in harmonizing the people in sport collaborating with the Federal and Regional governments. The recent incident that occurred between Jimma Aba Jifar FC and St. George FC in Jimma town should have been avoided. We shouldn’t spill anyone’s blood for the sake of victory. Football clubs should come to a consensus and an understanding. Another major task will be to carry out key reforms. The Federation should come together to evaluate its weaknesses and strength and draft its way forward. We also have to make sure this year’s tournaments conclude peacefully. On top of that, we will assign three Executive committee members. We will also hold a meeting with the Ethiopian Referees’ Association and make sure that we assign ethical and professional referees. We will mount cameras on every remaining match for monitoring purposes. We will not tolerate or compromise on any player that gets a red card on matches.
We are aware that the national team have not commenced with their preparations. What plans do you have for the national team?
We will make arrangements on that in 15 days. We have assigned former national team coach Sewinet Bishaw to come up with a strategy on how to move forward. We will work to materialize the reforms that we have planned to implement.
Ethiopia will host the 2020 CHAN tournament and what are your plans to deliver on that?
Concerning CHAN tournament, the concerned body is undertaking monitoring activities. We will examine that and extend any necessary help. We are also planning to consult with FIFA in order for the federation to have a permanent secretariat office.