Player turned coach
Since joining the first team of St. George FC in 1995, he has played as a midfielder and a fullback until 2003. Well-known for his leadership qualities on and off the field, senior coaches believed he had a bright future in coaching. In 2004/05 season he joined Defense FC and again in 2006/07 served in Medin FC then after concluding his playing career early. At the end of his illustrious playing career, Coach Fasil Tekalign received a call from his former club St. George to manage the youth team. He was an assistant coach to several foreign coaches and has succeeded in achieving many titles in the Ethiopian Premier League as well as CAF tournaments. Current Ethiopian national team assistant coach Fasil was in Budapest, Hungary to take additional coaching lessons and Dawit Tolesa of The Reporter has sat down with Fasil to discuss the over-all activity of the session. Excerpts
The Reporter: You had a big reputation while you were playing in the EPL. However, you stopped playing football at an early age. What was the reason?
Fasil Tekalign: Well, I knew it was early and many people were telling me I was capable to play more football during that time. But sometimes you lose the passion to play football. Everything will come to an end, and you will have an opportunity to immediately shift your mind to stop playing football. I received a call from St. George to coach the youth team, while I was playing. So, I saw the moment to go back to St. George as another advantage and I convinced myself that returning to my home club is another dream which I have to enjoy. Hence, I decided to take over the youth team and face the new challenges as a coach.
Take us back through your first coaching moment and what was your impression?
Actually, while I was playing at a club level, several coaches were telling me that I had a bright future in coaching football. To be honest, I was afraid of the pressure after seeing experienced coaches around me under immense pressure and being a coach is not an easy job and you have to shoulder a big responsibility.
You have been appointed as the youth team coach following your retirement from football and you did not have a coaching license during that time. How is that possible?
Of course, I did not have a proper license to be a coach. However, I had the opportunity to work with prominent coaches for a long time. I had a chance to see coaches like, Asrat Haile, Seyoum Abate, Kassahun Teka and Mengistu Worku. Additionally, I had a good experience through my playing career. From a young age, I was a responsible person and managers during my career, gave me a lot of responsibilities. I think that is one of the reasons that the club was confident in hiring me.
You have achieved various tittles with the youth team. A two-time champion, twice runners-up, and you were named best coach, twice. In the 2012 season, you joined the main team as an assistant and succeeded in different EPL tittles with St. George’s foreign coaches. Tell us about it?
Well, since my first appointment as an assistant coach at St. George, I have worked with various foreign coaches. All these coaches have their own remarkable sides. For instance, Dutch based coach Mart Nooijis was an amazing coach I have ever had the pleasure of working with. The way he manages players, pressure, power and taking responsibility is incredible. Germany based Coach Mark Gregor and Coach Marriano Barreto at the national team level were some of the coaches I have shared experience with. I had a great time and I am happy.
What is your current level of coaching in light of advancing your capability?
According to Ethiopian coaching license, prior measurement is CAF license, which is given by CAF instructors. I have received CAF A coaching license at the end of 2016. I have received a diploma in physical education and a degree in sport science from Kotebe metropolitan university, Addis Ababa. Meanwhile, a week back I have concluded my international coaching courses in Budapest.
Tell us about your coaching session in Budapest?
The international Olympic Committee (IOC) always invites member countries to give training courses for coaches. The invitation includes all sport coaches across the country. So, the Ethiopia Football Federation (EFF) gave me a chance to take part in the coaching course. Budapest has two big universities where many Europeans study sport science courses. It has helped me see where I am and what professional coaching level means.
We have taken general subjects which include physiology, sport communication, sport nutrition and related courses. The other one is sport specialization which focuses on football coaching divided into practice and theory.
There were several coaches who got the chance to take coaching courses abroad. However, it is rare to see them apply their experience and our method of playing is backward compared to other African countries. What do you want to say about it?
There are two ways of coaching courses formal and informal. The formal way is a course which you attend at a university level, while the informal one is a personal way of developing your skill using various mechanisms. There are a number of ways, if you want to advance your coaching skills. There is no more street football. Our football perception and system is zero. We are working on it. But I don’t know if the system we are following is wrong or right. I think we were moving without a proper study and evaluation of our league. We don’t have a proper system. So, we have to do our job effectively.
You have been working as an assistant coach. What is your future plan?
Well, many people ask me the same question about my next plan. Now, I have a contract with the national team until 2022 CHAN championships. I don’t know what will happen next. But I am very eager to manage a club. I don’t want to serve as an assistant. I think I have something new to offer. So, I want to try a new journey. Many clubs are giving me an offer. So, I will be in a new management job.