The Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) will celebrate its 27th anniversary in San Jose, California from June 27th to July 3rd. The annual event brings together thousands of Ethiopians throughout North America and other parts of the world.
During the week-long festivities merchants bring their goods and services to market, DJ’s and event promoters bring out the hottest acts in contemporary and traditional Ethiopian music, and political as well as not-for profit groups converge to push their particular cause and agendas. At the center of it all is the soccer tournament, the foundation in which ESFNA is built upon.
This year over 700 coaches and players comprising of 27 teams will take part in the tournament. Team Abay will be representing New York and surrounding areas. The team, which has been undergoing a transitional rebuilding period in recent years, is quickly emerging as a strong squad.
Sammy Taddese has been coaching Team Abay for a good part of the past five years and has a clear mission in mind. “Currently we are in Group B, our goal is to have a strong enough performance to finish within the top two of our group in order to move up to Group A in 2011.” Despite the challenges Team Abay faces, there are signs the team is headed in the right direction.
Being located in the New York and New Jersey area makes it difficult for the team to practice as often as they like. “We would like to meet up at least twice a week when we get closer to the tournament but it’s often difficult because of the challenges of getting everyone together in this area. This gives our opponents an advantage.” Teams around the DC, Dallas and LA area often meet several times a week in preparation for the tournament. “Its easy for them to meet up, oftentimes members are a 15 minute drive away.”
Despite the obstacles and challenges, Team Abay is coming together. Recently the team took part in the ESFNA sponsored Memorial Day tournament in Washington DC. In this tournament, Team Abay defeated DC Stars, with a goal from Team Captain Aman Tshaye. The team also came out on top against the Virginia Lions in a penalty shootout, and Team Captain Aman once again led his squad in scoring the only goal against DC’s St. Michel’s to come out victorious and win the tournament.
Coach Sammy is optimistic about the future of the team, while he calls on the community for support. “We have a very young, dedicated team that is coming into form.” Sammy urges the local New York community to join and support the team. “We need assistance in various capacities, we welcome everyone to join.” If you also want to join the team, and you are not in the prime of your life, Sammy urges you to come along. “Our goal is to bring Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians around the city of New York together using soccer. You can come along, it’s a great exercise.” Another challenging task for team Abay is fundraising. “We reach out to community churches and Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian businesses for support, although we are thankful for the support we get, players often times come out of pocket. This is a challenge especially when you have a very young team.”
While many challenges are present, Team Abay’s future is promising. With some support from the community to go along with their sheer determination, Team Abay could become one of the strongest teams in the Federation.