Sports in Ethiopia
Despite intense poverty, the Ethiopian people are very interested in sports. A few contemporary sports are very popular and traditional types of sport are still practiced by some groups.
Some of the country’s most popular athletes are runners. In fact, Ethiopia has been known as the running mecca because of the success it has achieved in both middle- and long-distance running. One of the major successes in the field of running is the fifth rank the country achieved during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Three Ethiopians also rule the long-distance running scene as of March 2006. One of them is Haile Gebreselassie, who holds more than 20 world records and presently holds the world record for 20-km, 25-km, half-marathon, and marathon.
Ethiopia took three medals in world races, including the Olympics. Lewis Michael Fletcher, an Ethiopian who is currently located at Peterborough, also got four golds in the Para-Olympics in Ethiopia. Note, though, that it is not only men who dominate the running scene. Women have brought pride to the country with the awards they’ve received in various running competitions. These include Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar, who are known for their gold medals.
Aside from running, Ethiopians are also interested in football, known in Canada as soccer. In fact, the country’s national football team, known as the Walyia Antelopes, won the African Cup of Nations in 1962. The team also qualified for the African Cup of Nations in 2012, as well as the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Presently, the team is led by its captain, Adane Girma. Saladin Seid is the top scorer of the team.
Ethiopians are also interested in basketball. In fact, Ethiopia is one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that first established a basketball team.
The country started to take part in the Olympics in 1956. Since then, it continuously sends athletes to various sports in the Summer Olympics. The passion of Ethiopians for various sports is also evidenced by the fact that it is one of just a few countries in Africa that have taken part in Winter Olympics games. Overall, Ethiopia has already garnered 45 Olympic medals (as of 2012). Most of the country’s wins came from running competitions.
In the rural parts of Africa, a lot of men love sports like wrestling, horse racing and pole-vaulting. There is also an equestrian game, often played during festivals. This game is called “gugs” and it requires riders to race at high speed while seated on brightly decorated horses. While racing, the riders need to throw mock spears at the other players. They can also show their skills and horsemanship by running along their horses then leaping onto the horses’ backs. This game actually helped young men during their preparation for war in years past.
Aside from the sports already mentioned, Ethiopia is also known for being one of just a few nations who still actively practice stick fighting, which is a popular traditional sport.