Coaches From GBFC on Their Way to Ethiopia
Presentation of GBFC Kits to the Ethiopian Football Association
Greenisland Boys Football Club recentley presented the Ethiopian Under 10's, Under 11's and Under 's 12 with Greenisland Boys Football Kits. The picture above shows Mike Frazer of Helm (GBFC Sponsors) Presenting the Kits to the Ethiopian Football Association.
To see further details click on this link The Irish Rovers 6 Coaches from GBFC will be flying to Ethiopia in July to help train and assess the Under 15 Squad in preparation for a possible Milk Cup appearance in 2005.
Under 12's Wearing Their New Kits
Irish Rovers in Ethiopia( The Tour)
The Ethiopian man looked no different to any of the other villagers who had gathered at the Irish Rover's training ground in the hills outside Addis Ababa.
It was only when he produced an AK47 assault rifle that the coaching party sat up and took notice.
We had only just got accustomed to the facilities if you could call them that, barren, sodden land, no changing rooms, no running water, no nourishment for the kids.
The man claimed that the field was his. It was where his cows grazed. Our lot were ruining it apparently. This fellow was threatening retribution, courtesy of that deadly weapon at his side.
Armed intimidation was not what the Rovers had been used to since arriving in the heaving Ethiopian capitol the day before. Indeed, they had been treated like international superstars by the inhabitants of this beguiling country. Television crews followed them everywhere, as did hundreds of local residents. Everyone seemed relentlessly intrigued as to what a group of white men and a woman from so far away were doing here.
Yes they had seen foreigners before, but this lot was different. All they seemed focused on, for no apparent reward, was carting scores of young children to a field outside the city, feeding them and spending all day teaching them how to play football properly.
The gunman was intrigued to but only until he was confronted by the Rover's Ethiopian Liason officer Lissane Yohannes, who, in rather colourful African language, fearlessly told the intruder to sling his hook. "He was showing off" explained Lissane later. "He was never going to use that gun. He doesn't even own this land; no citizens of Ethiopia do. The government own the land."
Remarkably the gunman later disarmed and joined all the other curios local villagers who had gathered to witness what, for them, was a bizarre spectacle in the thin air of this high- altitude setting. Explaining to them what was going on prove almost impossible; mind you, readers might need it explained as well.
The Irish Rovers are a group of junior football coaches, most of whom have links to the Greenisland Boys Football Club, who came out here to breathe fresh life into the troubled Ethiopian Football Federation, a one time powerhouse in the sport which has now, for obvious reasons, fallen way behind African cousins such as Nigeria and Cameroon.
The best way to achieve that was to bring a tangible structure to the so called grass roots level - ie. The talented but raw under 15 children. Tangible proof of this would come when, after sufficient coaching, scrutiny and quality control, an Ethiopian team capable of competing at international level would be born. A laudable ambition but why coaches from Greenisland.
The answer lies with Ulster businessman Mike Frazer, who lives in the village and is an enthusiastic supporter of the local boys club.
As International director of the Helm Corporation, Mike is a regular visitor to Ethiopia, and it was a chance meeting with that country's sports minister last year that led to this adventure. Mike saw the trip as a no lose situation; the coaches would produce a team capable of competing abroad and thus helping change the negative perception of this strife torn region.
One of their first ports of call will be Northern Ireland next year, Subsequently he helped raise £40,000 in corporate sponsorship for the bold experiment. Nobody is claiming that this would amount to anything other than a drop in the ocean but Ethiopia, at all levels, has to lift itself and even in junior football, they need foundations and structures to achieve that.
It's a small step, but a step in the right direction. And when everyone is pulling in that same direction this once great country will achieve the resurrection it's people desire and deserve. One thing is certain; it won't be for lack of effort and that was epitomised by an ultra professional approach from the Greenisland contingent that, I have to say, would put many senior clubs to shame.
A holiday? Holidays don't have dawn starts, exhausting work, oppressive heat you can't escape from. Holidays do have running water, toilets and loo roll. It's a tribute to the Irish Rovers that they not only achieved their goals, but did it with the type of good-natured enthusiasm that made them superb ambassadors for our wee country.
For four days the group, led by Laurence 'Gillsey' Gilloway, toiled in the heat; it was the rainy season but, this close to the equator and such a breathless altitude, even an overcast day has hidden dangers. Severe sunburn and horrific blisters suffered by several members of the party were testimony to that.
The effort didn't stop when the boots were pulled off; humanitarian missions organised by Concern and Save the Children were also approached with enthusiasm, although witnessing the shocking poverty and appalling conditions in this famine torn country was a chastening experience.
On the Thursday Irish FA coach Jim Grattan arrived, armed with a 5-year development plan for Ethiopian football which he presented to the officials of the country's government and Football Federation.
The week ended where it began at the national Stadium in downtown Addis Ababa, where the cream of the country's young footballers strutted their stuff in front of their proud new coaches and 11,000 locals who had been following the progress of the experiment on local television.
The Rovers later delighted the crowd by taking on an Ethiopian select in a full scale televised match but, sadly, they couldn't practice on the pitch what they had been breaching to the kids, ultimately losing 3-1. As one of the party remarked: "this was certainly different."
Indeed it was. But as their motto says, Making A Difference was what this group of dedicated people had set out to do in the first place. It's a pleasure to report that they succeeded.
Irish Rovers Team in the National Stadium with Haile Gebrselassie
Jackie and Dennis's Team wearing their new kit
Gillsey's Team warming up
Nigel and Mark's Team
Uggy's Goal keeping Class
Players receiving their Football Boots Supplied by The Irish Rovers
Elish, Hilary and Bobby with Halie Gebrselassie insid the National Stadium
Uggy, Mark and Dennis Handing out Footballs to local lads.
Smiles all round as pencil cases are given to Pupils from Newtownabbey Council
50 Pupils are taught in one classroom
The National Stadium
Goal Keepers doing their Warm Ups
Dennis and Jackie with the Irish Rovers Drum of Culture