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Showdown in Hawassa
The Walias training in Hawassa for their match against Sierra Leone

Showdown in Hawassa

Walias take on Sierra Leone

The Ethiopian national team a.k.a. the Walias commenced their preparations for the second round of the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification match against Sierra Leone, which will take place on September 9, 2018 in Hawassa International Stadium.

The newly minted coach of the Walias, Abraham Mebratu, disclosed his final 23-man squad that will face the West African nation.

After his appointment, Coach Abraham shortlisted 34 players including those playing in foreign leagues, finally selecting 23.

As the national team is reeling from a first round thumping (5-0) by the hands of the Ghanaian national team nicknamed the Black Stars, the squad commenced their preparations in Hawassa. Since August 7, 2018, the Walias have been preparing for tomorrow’s match against Sierra Leone.

Following the defeat in the first round, it is going to be a vital home match to qualify for the continent’s flagship tournament. The Walias are grouped with Ghana, Sierra Leone and Kenya in Group F. Sierra Leone also announced its final 23-man squad days ago while the Black Stars were preparing at the Addis Ababa Stadium for their qualifier game in Kenya.

During their preparations in Hawassa, Coach Abraham put the players through their paces as the qualification match neared. The Walias’ training sessions were both on and off the pitch and mainly focused on sports physiology, technique, Gym, swimming and nutrition.

With the national team inconsistently performing for some time now; according to Abraham, the players’ physical fitness was below par and they were not well prepared. 

“We have been training rigorously by employing various techniques of playing styles and we were mainly focused on coordinating players. So, to strengthen these things, we are working hard,” Coach Abraham Mebratu told The Reporter.

He also believes that his team is psychologically ready for all the qualification matches with the help of experts during their off the pitch sessions.

“Our players are ready and motivated. But, I couldn’t say we have a full squad and a squad that is fit enough,” Abraham said.

Abraham wants to return to winning ways and advance to the AFCON finals and Sunday’s match will be crucial.  After signing a two-year contract a month ago with the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF), head coach Abraham unveiled his three assistant coaches. Long serving St. George coach, assistant Fasil Tekalegn, and former Hawassa City assistant coach have been unveiled as part of the backroom staff. Wubishet Desselagn is named as the goalkeeper coach. Psychology experts have also been invited by Coach Abraham from universities.

After last Sunday’s draw against Burundi, Abraham’s 23- man squad was announced on September 3, 2018. The squad consists of four players’ recruited from abroad. These are Biniam Belay of Albanian outfit (KF Skenderbeu korce), Shimelis Bekele of (Petro jet), Gatoch Panom of El Gouna and Umed Ukuri of Egyptian side Smouha SC.

Abraham elaborated that he will try to form an outstanding team with both foreign and local players as much as possible for the Sunday match.

The Ethiopian national team was unable to qualify for the AFCON cup since their qualification in 2013 after 31 years led by Coach Sewinet Bishaw. Afterwards, four coaches have been named by EFF to help progression in AFCON and CHAN competitions.  But, they could not manage to register any improvements.

The newly elected EFF administration vowed to give coaches enough time and to help by providing necessary materials. During the signing of Coach Abraham, EFF president Esayas Jirra stated that Coach Abraham will have the full backing of the management of the EFF in order to come up with better results.

The Ethiopian national team full squad

Goal Keeper: Samson Assefa (Dire Dawa), Tekelemariam Shanko (Hawassa City), Tsion Merhed (Arba Minch City)

Defenders: Saladin Bergicho, Aschalew Tamene, Abdulkerim Mohammed and Henok Adugna (St. George), Mujib Kasim (Fasil City), Anteneh Tesfaye (Dire Dawa City), Amsalu Tilahun (Fasil City) and Ahmed Reshid (Ethiopia Coffee)

Midfielders: Gatoch Panom (El Gouna), Mulalem Mesfin, Nathnael Zeleke (St. George), Amanuel  Yohannes (Ethiopia Coffee), Biniyam Belay (Skenderbeu Korce) and Shimelis Bekele (Petro Jet)

Strikers: Addis Gidey (Sidama Coffee), Abel Yalew, Getaneh Kebede and Bahilu Assefa (St. George), Umed Ukuri (Smouha SC) and Dawa Utessa (Adama City)