The Evolution of the Ethiopia National Football Team and Best Ethiopia Football Players Ever

From starting its journey officially in 1947 to winning the Africa Cup of Nations to consistently failing to qualify for the competition, the evolution of the Ethiopia National Football Team has been extremely compelling and full of ups and downs. Mengistu Worku, Saladin Said, and Shimelis Bekele are some of the best Ethiopia football players ever and have left an indelible mark on the global stage, extending way beyond Ethiopia. Join us as we explore the exhilarating journey of Ethiopian football from obscurity to the worldwide stage.

Start of the Football in Ethiopia

Football in Ethiopia is not just a sport; it’s a vibrant part of the country’s cultural fabric, boasting a rich history that traces back to its official inception in 1947. This was the year when the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) organized its first official game, laying the foundation for what would become a significant force in African football. The sport’s roots in Ethiopia, however, stretch back even further, intertwining with the country’s social and cultural evolution, indicating a deep-seated passion for football among Ethiopians long before the establishment of formal institutions.

The establishment of the EFF was a landmark moment in Ethiopian sports history, signifying a formal recognition and organization of football in a country where the love for the game was already burgeoning among its people. This pivotal year marked the beginning of a journey that would see Ethiopian football rise to prominence on the African continent. Just five years after its inception, the EFF took a step onto the global stage by becoming a member of FIFA in 1952, a significant endorsement of Ethiopia’s commitment to international football standards and practices.

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The EFF’s proactive approach to football governance and development did not stop at joining FIFA. In 1957, it played an instrumental role in the formation of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), a testament to Ethiopia’s dedication not only to fostering football within its borders but also to contributing to the sport’s growth across the African continent. This move was pivotal in promoting unity and competition among African nations, elevating the standard of the game across the region.

Ethiopian football’s journey through the decades is marked by both triumphs and challenges. The national team, known affectionately as the Walias, after the Walia ibex, a symbol of national pride and resilience, has experienced moments of glory on the international stage. Their participation in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and their victory in 1962 stand as a testament to the country’s footballing prowess. This victory not only filled the nation with pride but also signaled Ethiopia’s emergence as a formidable force in African football.

However, the journey has not been without its setbacks. The fluctuating fortunes of the national team in international competitions reflect the broader challenges faced by football in Ethiopia, including infrastructure development, funding, and training. Yet, despite these hurdles, the passion for football among Ethiopians remains undimmed. The local league continues to thrive, with clubs like Saint George FC, Ethiopia Coffee, and Fasil Kenema enjoying strong support from their fanbases, showcasing the deep-rooted love for football across the country.

The story of football in Ethiopia is one of passion, resilience, and community. It’s a narrative that encapsulates the spirit of a nation that has embraced football as more than just a game. As Ethiopian football continues to evolve, the foundation laid by the EFF and the early pioneers of the sport in the country serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration. The journey of Ethiopian football from its formal organization in 1947 to its current status is a reflection of the country’s enduring love for the beautiful game, a love that continues to drive the sport forward, both nationally and across the African continent.

Early Dominance of Ethiopia in the African Region

Ethiopia is one of the first countries in Africa to embrace football, yet it did not dominate. In 1962, Ethiopia won its first African Cup of Nations trophy; since then, they have never been consistent in this competition. Although they have played a number of tournaments, their performance has not lived up to expectations, with early exits becoming their order.

Ethiopia has, however, fared much better in regional competitions. Four times winners of the CECAFA Cup, they have demonstrated why they are regarded as one of the top sides from East and Central Africa.

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Long-Extending Struggles Of Ethiopia

However, Ethiopia’s international journey has not been smooth despite its earlier achievements. The nation has never qualified for a FIFA World Cup thus far, which is quite surprising given its rich football tradition. Nevertheless, their attempts at World Cup qualifiers have produced mixed outcomes reflecting on what an uphill task it can be for them to secure a global stage berth.

The same can be said about Ethiopia’s performance in the Africa Cup of Nations, as this has also been disappointing. Victories are few and far between for Ethiopia in the tournament, with a long time since 1976 when they last tasted victory: this illustrates how difficult it is for them to remain competitive at the continental level.

Current Position of Ethiopian Football

The current world football governing body, FIFA, ranks Ethiopia 144th among the 211 teams globally, indicating a significant task they face in international competitions. The Ethiopian national team, despite its challenges, is eager to surmount these difficulties and return to its previous status as Africa’s powerhouse in football.

Ethiopia is preparing for World Cup qualifiers, with fixtures against Guinea-Bissau and Djibouti coming up in June 2024. It will be an opportunity for them to demonstrate their abilities as well as make a step towards qualification for future events.

Best Ethiopia Football Players Ever

In Ethiopian football, a few names stand out as towering figures, symbols of both the sport’s rich history in the country and its ongoing evolution. Mengistu Worku, Saladin Said, and Shimelis Bekele are three such individuals, whose careers have left an indelible mark not only on Ethiopian football but on the global perception of Ethiopian athletes. Their contributions have transcended the boundaries of their home country, reaching out to inspire countless players and fans across the world, and cementing their status as icons of the sport.

Mengistu Worku, often revered as a pioneering figure in Ethiopian football, played a crucial role in the early development of the sport within the country. His legacy is not just built on his exceptional skill on the field but also on his dedication to fostering a vibrant football culture in Ethiopia. Worku’s name is synonymous with the golden era of Ethiopian football, a period when the country first made its mark on the international stage. His influence extends beyond his playing days, having served as a mentor and coach to younger generations, instilling in them a profound respect for the game and a commitment to excellence.

Saladin Said, another luminary of Ethiopian football, represents the modern era of the sport in the country. Known for his agility, technical skill, and scoring ability, Said has become a role model for aspiring footballers in Ethiopia and beyond. His career, which spans several countries and leagues, showcases the global nature of football today and the opportunities it presents for talented players from all corners of the world. Saladin’s success on the international stage has not only brought pride to Ethiopians but has also highlighted the potential of Ethiopian footballers to compete at the highest levels of the sport.

Shimelis Bekele, like his esteemed predecessors, has made significant contributions to Ethiopian football. His versatility and creativity on the field have earned him accolades and respect both nationally and internationally. Bekele’s journey through the ranks of Ethiopian and international football is a testament to his hard work, determination, and the growing stature of Ethiopian football on the world stage. His performances have inspired a new generation of players, demonstrating the heights that can be achieved with talent and perseverance.

Together, Mengistu Worku, Saladin Said, and Shimelis Bekele embody the spirit and evolution of Ethiopian football. They have each played pivotal roles in elevating the profile of the sport in their country, showcasing the rich talent pool that exists in Ethiopia and the passion that Ethiopians have for football. Their legacies are not merely about the goals scored or matches won but about the inspiration they provide to countless young players who dream of following in their footsteps. Through their achievements, they have contributed to a broader narrative of Ethiopian success in sports, proving that with talent, dedication, and the right opportunities, Ethiopian footballers can shine on the global stage. These icons of Ethiopian football have not only made their mark on the sport but have also played a significant role in shaping the cultural and social fabric of their country, inspiring generations to strive for greatness, both on and off the field.


The future of football in Ethiopia is marked by both challenges and opportunities. While the national team is still contending with the impending hurdles on its way to international success, there is promise of an upsurge and revitalization. The country possesses a rich football heritage and a devoted fan base, making it possible for Ethiopia to reclaim its status as the dominant African football powerhouse. Through hard work, persistence and consistent development programs, the Ethiopian football team can be the global star that they were supposed to become once.