Ethiopia’s Unity Cup team learn about life and culture through football

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) – Philadelphia’s ongoing World Cup-style soccer tournament, the Unity Cup, is about bringing people of different ethnicities together across the world’s favorite sport to learn about other cultures.

For some athletes and coaches like those of the Ethiopian team, it is also about connecting players with their own history and traditions.

Alias ​​Omer arrived in Philadelphia from Ethiopia nearly three decades ago.

During that time, he played for the Ethiopian team in the Unity Cup, and he is now coaching this year’s entry representing the nation. He says this role keeps him close to his memories and the traditions of his homeland.

“I really like it, because we keep our culture,” Omer said. “We eat together, we share what we have and sometimes we play after games.”

He says that over time, the football club became a way for him and others to pass on the Ethiopian language, style of play and traditions to first-generation players.

“The children were actually born here. Their father played for this team. This is how we build the team,” Omer said. “After school, they just come, and their families are just happy to send their children to play football. They know they are well placed. »

Nathaniel Woldeyohannes, 16, is one of those first-generation players. He said his time with the team had enlightened him about Ethiopia in more ways than one.

“I just learned more about my culture throughout this experience. It was so helpful,” he said.

“The importance of watching football and the importance of going to church. We are one big family, not divided by generations. We are just one big family playing football as a whole group.

The Ethiopian team will face Romania on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the South Philadelphia Super Site, near the corner of South 10th and Bigler streets. This game is one of 16 Unity Cup group stage matches are taking place this weekend.

The elimination rounds begin Friday, August 26 and run throughout September.

Helen D. Jessen