From the Media Capital, to the Global Ethiopian Community
Wednesday October 18th 2017

So What’s the Fuss? The controversy surrounding ESFNA

President of ESFNA Dawit Agonafer answers questions from the media.

Last week, the 25th anniversary of the Ethiopian Soccer Federation of North America (ESFNA) brought together thousands of Ethiopians from across America and around the world. Players from 27 teams made their way to RFK stadium and so did hundreds of vendors ready to sell goods and services. During the middle of the week however, a press conference was called by Executives of ESFNA to address the controversy surrounding the organization that led to some groups calling for a boycott of soccer matches and events sponsored by ESFNA.

A week or so before the events kicked off, ESFNA announced it received a $300,000 donation from Sheik Al-Amoudi and the media for the most part scrutinized the federation for it. This also became the main reason why some groups started to call for a boycott of events sponsored by the Federation. The various media outlets were upset by the fact ESFNA accepted money from a business man who has close ties with the government in Ethiopia. This act was seen as an attempt to hijack the Federation and push forth political propaganda. Ato Dawit Agonafer, president of the Federation, explained that he understood why people would be upset, but the Sheik does not hold a political position and there was no reason why they wouldn’t accept the money. He further stated there were no political strings attached to the donation that was received, however, the only strings that may be attached would be how to distribute the money evenly among teams or specify a portion of the funds to buy uniforms or other goods for the teams. According to Ato Agonafer, if there were any other strings attached the money wouldn’t be accepted.

Ato Fasil Abebe, public relations officer, stated this year’s event expenses are about 1.2 million dollars and the money would be useful in paying a portion of it. He mentioned a major part of the expenses will be covered by the people who attended the events. Noting, there is no place for politics in the Federation, Ato Fasil also took the blame for not effectively communicating with the media. This is Ato Fasil’s first year as public relations officer, a job which he describes as being demanding but has learned a lot from. “Next time we will not announce that we received money from the Sheik,” he said jokingly.

Also in attendance with the media was Human Rights activist Obang Metho. He thanked the Executives of the Federation for taking the time out to address the media. “It is by sitting down and talking that we can make progress,” he said. He then told the Executives of the Federation that they have great power in the Ethiopian community as they continuously bring thousands together every year. With this power comes responsibility and he urged them not to shy away from speaking out against non-political issues affecting Ethiopia.

For the most part it was a positive press conference that highlighted the sensitivity of issues regarding our Nation. The annual tournament organized by ESFNA is an event enjoyed by individuals from everywhere and of all ages. Children can interact with their peers while others meet up with childhood friends. Dinning and nightlife is restless as the young and young-at-heart jam pack concerts and clubs and dance the night away. There are also conferences held by various political and non-political groups covering a wide range of issues. As for myself, this was the 2nd tournament I attended and I am looking forward to next year, as soon as I recover from this one.

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