The first week in July marks the ESFNA Soccer tournament. What is ESFNA? That is the Ethiopian Soccer Federation of North America. This event happens every year, for the past 32 years. It is the time of year when Ethiopians from across North America come together. Soccer teams from each state compete, old friends meet, and new friends are made. The tournaments actually embody more than just a soccer game, it is a time when people from all over the country come together to celebrate what unites them, their Ethiopian culture.
Vendors have booths, entrepreneurs sell their products, activists create awareness about their non profits, musicians and artists display their work. Everyone wears their green, yellow and red colors, displaying their flag with pride. No one is worried what tribal group you belong to. No one cares about your political affiliation. As if this week full of Ethiopian pride and display of affection towards one culture isn’t enough, there is even an Ethiopia Day, usually scheduled on the Friday before the last day of the tournament. Ethiopia Day is when all the kids locally and from other places come together, sing songs, display their flags. Musicians perform, there is a fashion show. Voices rise together singing “Ethiopia Hagere” translation, “Ethiopia, My country.” It is truly a beautiful thing. I remember one year when all the kids I grew up together gathered to rehearse the song we were going to sing. The organizers lined us up, dressed us all in matching t-shirts, gave us each a flag and we marched onto the field. This is probably something that happened close to 20 years ago, but I still remember the words to the song. I am still in touch with most of the kids I did that activity with, we all remember that day.
I didn’t get to go to the tournaments the past several years, because you know adulthood sometimes causes us to get a little busy. But I remember going to the tournaments like it was yesterday. I remember taking trips with my family when I was young to other states. I remember when I got older taking trips with my friends to attend the tournaments. It instilled a sense of cultural pride, deep inside of my core. Seeing so many people that look just like me, that share a similar culture like me, and bask in that pride was something that deeply touched my core. I remember like it was yesterday. The value and concept of coming together as ONE united group of people sharing similar culture, despite tribal or political affiliation is the most beautiful thing about the ESFNA Soccer Tournament. The tournaments is a time when you literally feel like you are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; when in reality you are in North America. Seeing so many people gathered in one place is truly a unique Ethiopian American experience.