Ethiopia set for CHAN race

Minyahel Teshome of Ethiopia

 Ethiopia makes its CHAN debut on Monday when they face Libya in their opening Group C game in Bloemfontein on Monday.

The Walya’s return to South Africa hoping for better fortunes after a memorable 2013 AFCON despite making a first round exit.

However, Ethiopia will be devoured of its big stars who outplayed and out-passed their opponents at 2013 AFCON who are ineligible for the tournament because they are foreign-based.

Midfielders Shimelis Bekele, Getaneh Kebede and Saladin Said ply their trade in Sudan, South Africa and Egypt respectively.

Coach Sawnet Bishaw remains confident that his CHAN squad minus his star performers can shine and despite their recent modest performance at the 2013 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Kenya in December where they made a quarterfinal exit.

“The team l have brought here is ready to fight hard, and hey, this is football you never know the outcome,” Bishaw said.

“You do your best and see how things go and this is a different team from last time we were here but we will definitely be competitive, that l can guarantee to you.”

On a positive note, the return of defender Abebaw Butako and goalkeeper Sisay Bancha should give Ethiopia the critical balance they need.

Butako and Bancha were banished from the team in November after a bust-up in Nigeria following their 2014 FIFA World Cup final stage qualifier exit at the hands of the Super Eagles but not before the duo were slapped with hefty fines over the incident.

Meanwhile, opponents Libya return to the competition for the second time since the inaugural 2009 tournament in Cote d’Ivoire where they failed to make it out of the group stage.

However, coach Javier Clemente’s youthful side will face a challenging opening day test at CHAN after an easy qualification to the South Africa finals.

Libya qualified for the final without kicking the ball after a walkover win following opponents Algeria’s withdrawal from the qualifiers.