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The man who built a national team from the streets

The man who built a national team from the streets

Born in Hawassa city, capital of the Southern Regional State, Temesgen Dana, 36, started playing football at a project level. Passing through the U-11, 13, and 15, he managed to join the Eastern football team. During his time with the club, he was recruited to play for the Hawassa U-17 team until he retired from playing at the age of 22 due to a shoulder injury. Afterwards, he went to school and graduated in agriculture from a college at Wolita Sodo. Not being able to satisfy his longstanding love of football, he began coaching in various regional championships. Now, Temesgen has become well-known in coaching youth teams and winning trophies. He became an assistant coach for the U-17 Hawassa team and later became the head coach. After his appointment as the U-17 national team coach by the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF), the team managed to progress to the final of CECAFA U-17 tournament in 2018 held in Tanzania. The national team only recorded a loss of 3-1 to the Ugandan national team.  Dawit Tolesa of The Reporter sat down with Temesgen Dana to talk about his coaching journey and the CECAFA U-17 tournament. Excerpts:

The Reporter: Tell us about the coaching lessons you have taken so far?
Temesgen Dana:
Well, I have received various coaching lessons in different football coaching courses. Indeed, I received my sport diploma in 2008 and CAF B license. I have taken various short courses from German based coaches while they were here in Hawassa and I was the translator for them. The local coaches helped me achieve my dream to be a coach. So, I always try to be a good coach in order to share my experience for our football.  I am not saying confidently, I am good enough. I have to work hard and increase my coaching abilities assisted by professional lessons. So, I am trying to be a good coach day by day reading, taking lessons and watching the current styles of coaching implemented across the world.

How do you explain being a coach in Ethiopia and the challenges?

It is certainly known that every profession has its own different challenges. However, these challenges will be easy if you are passionate and have a dream. It is my dream to be a great coach; hence, all these challenges were an input for my coaching journey. There are different challenges while you tutor youth, adults and the national team. Being a coach in Ethiopia or in general is a test by itself. However, our
coaching lessons are not up to par when compared with the current standards set. We do not have any coaching schools, colleges and universities. I think nobody gives due attention to coaching lessons and almost all Ethiopian coaches have reached these levels by their own volition.

Based on the current football situation in the country, can we confidently say that Ethiopia have quality players?

I can surely say that we have numerous players across the country. For instance, let’s take our U-17 national team which was in Tanzania, CECAFA tournament. We got these players eight days before the competition. We were in a hurry to recruit the players and get in the tournament. So, it’s all about an ardent way of leading our football. I cannot say we have a shortage of players. In the tournament, our striker was the top goal scorer and the goalkeeper was also named best of the competition. Our goalkeeper is the fourth substitute for the U-17 Hawassa city team. We always need to have plenty of players; but, we are not ready to provide what the football needs on the ground. Ethiopia is not poor of players.

How was the CECAFA competition in Tanzania and your squad?

Firstly, this team was not a team recruited prior to the competition.  We had recruited 41 players from different clubs and only 7 players passed the MRI examination. Then we decided to recruit project level and street level players. So, in six days preparation time, I saw hope and good performances in those youths. Our players were passionate, hopeful and managed to win all the group matches. All the players were new to the international stage, even in local tournaments. It was their first time having a passport. Hence, our team was impressive.

What was your stand when you were recruiting the players even though they were inexperienced and the result?
 Because of the experience I had while coaching a youth team; I know what frustrates them, what makes them free while playing. We worked mainly on their psychological capability. We were late to prepare but I observed that this team seemed like a well-organized, well prepared team. We had a good form until the final match. Ugandan players were clearly over aged and they are all tall physically. Concerning the result, all teams were given 4 days of rest and Uganda had enough recovery time. So, that was the main challenges we faced including inexperience.

Your defenders were weak in stopping crossed balls. What is the solution?

As we all know, it is difficult to solve these problems within a short period of time. We prepared in six days. We gave attention to our playing. Ugandan players are on average 1.80 cm and our players 1.60 cm. In five games we conceded three penalty goals. This showed us they need maturity.

It has been a culture in Ethiopian football to let go of players after a competition ends. What do want to say about trend?

Well, our responsibility is to show that there are a lot of young talents across the country. We need to have a common manual to keep players for the next steps. New elected EFF president has promised to work on it. Our opponents, Burundi
prepared for six months, Djibouti more than a month and had an opportunity to get a friendly match under their belts. So, we have to follow the better
way to progress our football.

What is your next plan in your coaching career?

My three month renewal contract with EFF is going to end. Hawassa football has assigned me as an assistant coach. But, I did not sign an official agreement. Regarding my coaching progress, I am going to continue my sport science education and specialize in football to the limit.