While it is common for Ethiopian boys to play on the streets or in the open fields in the neighborhoods and eventually progress to club levels, it was a rear opportunity for girls like Seniat Bogale to play with her childhood friends. Growing up in Addis Ababa around Kwas Meda, she was the only girl to appear in a project-level team for training. After joining the local women’s team, she managed to secure her promotion to project level B which competes at a Division Level. Later in 2011, she joined Dedebit women FC. During her stay with Dedebit, she has proven to be an outstanding midfielder, and played a role in her club’s three-time season championship victory and a knockout cup. On September 16, 2018, finally Senait’s outstanding performance was recognized by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) awards when she was named The Best Player of The Year. After eight years with Dedebit; she has now signed a two year contract for Adama City. Dawit Tolesa of The Reporter sat down with Senait to discuss about her football journey and the awards. Excerpts:
The Reporter: Tell us about your football journey?
Senait: Well, playing football for me was normal. Kwas meda is one place where any interested person can easily get a chance to advance his/his skills. You can find people who can support and give you advice throughout your career. So, many individuals were around me and helped me in different ways. However, my father who has been a player and my brothers will take the lion’s share of credit for my success. Especially my father was always there in the training grounds to advise me. Also our communities comment was not easily forgettable. Overall, I can say I am lucky.
Take us back to the first moment you joined Dedebit FC?
It was a great moment and an opportunity for me. Because, it was my dream to play at a club level as women’s football is given low attention. After I joined the club, I immediately changed my playing skills, taking various lessons via help of my coach, Asrat Abate. He was the one who recruited me from the projects. Playing in the villages was like playing for one’s passion only. But, when I got into the club level, they showed me how to control ball, create a space and different techniques of playing. I waited for two years to be included in the lineup since there were exceptional and experienced players at the moment. So, joining those players made it easy.
When you started playing football, you were the only girl pitted with boys. How did you feel about that?
As we all know, it is not easy for women to play football in Ethiopian. We have a culture which is highly reluctant to encourage women footballers. However, luckily our village is indifferent to such kind of issues. During my childhood, I played with boys and they were very happy and supportive. Everyone is passionate and helpful regarding football. They are in love with football. So, their kindness was the strength for my success.
What do you say woman footballers need in Ethiopia?
Well, there will be challenges in any circumstance to be a footballer, especially in the community. Being a professional footballer is about living through various hindrances. It is not only dribbling but also taking responsibility for many things. So, all these things are not easily manageable if you are not committed to the job. To be a good footballer you need to be a hard worker and be in it with all your heart. We have three days in a week to train and I train for an additional two days by myself. It is about hard work.
What do you say about the Ethiopian Women Premier League’s progress and the rival clubs?
In fact when it was starting, it was not comparable to the Men EPL. However, day after day, it is gaining attention. Formerly, there were few clubs divided into two groups for the final match. But, since the EPL commenced, it has become competitive and all the clubs are not easily beaten like previous competitions. Clubs like our rival Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Adama City and Defense are in a good form. So, now I can say it is in a good state.
What do you think needs improvement in the women’s premier league?
My comment regarding the women’s EPL is that we are playing few matches in a season. We only play 18 matches annually; without any international games. This is very limited. If we see the men’s competition, they play more than 32 matches in one season. This is vital to develop women’s football in Ethiopia and build a better national team. We need to increase the number of clubs.
You have been awarded Women’s best player of the 2017/18 season. How do you feel about it?
Well, when the EBC Sports Award commenced last year, I heard that I am one of the nominees for that award. I was happy but I did not succeed. So, I started to get ready for this year’s award and perform well with the support of my teammates. So, the award gives me strength to look forward to my future.
Do you believe that Ethiopia has quality women players?
There are a number of young players across the country. It is about giving them the chance and some mentorship. We have experienced senior women players who have paved the way for women’s football to progress. So, if they work hard and help these youth, nothing is impossible. Hence, it is all about giving the right lessons.
You have joined Adama City on a two year contract. What do you feel?
I had an impressive eight years with Dedebit FC. I feel gratitude for the time I had with them. I have learned a lot and achieved a lot. Now, I am on a new journey in my career with Adama City. I will do my best for the club to win the title in the coming years. Now, my focus is to open another chapter with Adama City.
What is your long term plan?
To be honest, my first plan right now is to help my new club and be a champion. Besides this, I have a plan to play abroad. So, I will try to do my best and currently I am also trying out for a Sweden based club.