This year’s African cup of Nations is set to be even more intense for the Ethiopian team than ever before.

The national team, which hasn’t qualified to play in the tournament since 1982 inspired nationwide enthusiasm as they beat both Benin and the Sudan to qualify for the cup.

“We are the pioneers, but we went backwards,” said Sahilu Gebremariam, president of the Ethiopian Football Federation, “Now the whole nation is inspired again.

In light of this newfound enthusiasm, the federation is now offering players a substantial sum, should they achieve victory in the final. Each player has been promised $55,000 if they get to the final, and $111,000 reward for winning the trophy.

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An Amharic language newspaper also stated that the coach for the Ethiopia team, Sewnet Bishaw, as well as his assistant, have also been promised a reward with “significantly higher prize money.”

Gebremariam said the prize money is “intended to boost the morale of the team.”

The last time the Ethiopia team achieved victory was back in 1962, and despite the fact team are now ranked 31st in Africa, and 110th in the world, the players and the fans still remain highly optimistic about Ethiopia’s chance of a win.

Club contributions to the national team

Almost the entire Ethiopian team is made up of home players, from clubs Dedebit, Defence and Saint George, with just one player from outside the districts.

The achievement of local players has had a positive effect of Ethiopian nationals, as the president of the federation points out:
“Football is the most loved sport in Ethiopia. Being good at athletics builds our international image, but wherever you go – in schools, villages, or in the street – football is the most popular sport.”

Still left to play before Ethiopia can receive their prize money are former champions Zambia, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.