ATO YIDNEKACHEW TESSEMA

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Ato Yidnekachew Tessema (1921-1987)

Not only is Ato Yidnekechew Tessema called the "Father of Modern Sport in Ethiopia" but also the "Father of Sport in Africa". Ato Yidnekachew is an extraordinary man with extraordinary contribution to the development and popularization of sport in Ethiopia and the rest of the African continent.

The son of Negadras Tessema Eshete, a legendary literary figure, Ato Yidnekachew was born in the city of Jimma in Southern Ethiopia on Ethiopia’s New Year day - Meskerem 1, 1914 (September 11, 1921). When he was four years old, the family moved back to Addis Ababa where young Yidnekachew attended school at the Teferi Mekonnen school. At school, Yidnekachew excelled in sports, particularly, soccer. Later in 1935, Yidnekachew joined the first Ethiopian soccer team-the St. George club. He also qualified to play in the national team.

In 1943, Yidnekachew opened the first sport federation with his colleague Amde Mikael Desalegn. Once the government recognized the importance of support for sport, Yidnekachew served his country and people in the capacities of secretary of the soccer and sport federation, president of national Olympics committee and commissioner of Sport federation.

Yidnekachew’s contribution to sport to the African continent started with his pioneering efforts and subsequent success in establishing the African Soccer Federation (CAF) in 1964. He served CAF as the deputy president between 1964-1972 and as the President between 1972 and 1987. He was also member of the African Sport Congress, International Olympics Committee, FIFA and President of the African Olympics Committee.

Yidnekachew worked and fought hard to make sure that sport brought peace and understanding between people. He was strongly opposed to accepting sport clubs based on race and religion. He was also opposed to commercial advertisements by tobacco and alcohol companies in stadiums and sport events. Yidnekachew’s contribution for the anti-Apartheid movement by preventing the then South Africa from participating in African and world sport events is legendary.

In his long career, Yidnekachew was awarded numerous medals and awards by the Ethiopian government and foreign governments.

Yidnekachew died on August 20, 1987 after a long illness. He is survived by his children and wife.