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Yidnekatchew Tessema
Mengistu Worku

St. George Gallery



September 11, 1921 - August 19, 1987

yidnekachew1Not only is Ato Yidnekechew Tessema called the "Father of Modern Sport in Ethiopia" but also the "Father of Sport in Africa". Ato Yidnekachew is an extraordinary man with extraordinary contribution to the development and popularization of sport in Ethiopia and the rest of the African continent.

The son of Negadras Tessema Eshete, a legendary literary figure, Ato Yidnekachew was born in the city of Jimma in Southern Ethiopia on Ethiopia's New Year day - Meskerem 1, 1914 (September 11, 1921). When he was four years old, the family moved back to Addis Ababa where young Yidnekachew attended school at the Teferi Mekonnen school. At school, Yidnekachew excelled in sports, particularly, soccer.

yidnekachew2At age eight Yidnekatchew Tessema was already the captain of his school's children's team. He had played for Ethiopia's first sports club Saint George, for a record 23 years. In a single competition season, he had scored a record 43 goals out of a total 47 by his team. Although he was already 29 years old when Ethiopia started National team football, he was still selected to play 15 internationals for his country. Furthermore, he was the founder of the modern Ethiopian Sports office at age 22.

He was the coach and team leader of Saint George and several generations of Ethiopian National teams. In 1943, Yidnekachew opened the first sport federation with his colleague Amde Mikael Desalegn yidnekachewHe was the chairman of the team selection Committees for the Ethiopian National Football teams from the 1950s to 1976. He was the instructor of the best Ethiopian football referees in history. He was the head coach of the Ethiopian National team that won the Third African Cup for the country. He was the leader of the Ethiopian Olympic teams to Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964 and Mexico 1968.

The founding members of the African Football Confederation

yidnekachew4The vice president and president of the African Football Confederation from its foundation in 1957 to the day he passed away on August 19 1987. He was a member of the F.I.F.A. Executive Committee from 1966 to 1974.

Yidnekachew worked and fought hard to make sure that sport brought peace and understanding between people. He was strongly opposed to accepting sport clubs based on race and religion. He was also opposed to commercial advertisements by tobacco and alcohol companies in stadiums and sport events. Yidnekachew's contribution for the anti-Apartheid movement by preventing the then South Africa from participating in African and world sport events is legendary.

In his long career, Yidnekachew was awarded numerous medals and awards by the Ethiopian government and foreign governments.

Yidnekachew died on August 20, 1987 after a long illness.

Posthumous awards

yidnekachew_fifaThe highest recognition to Yidnekatchew Tessema is this Sports complex in Casablanca; kindly dedicated to his name by His Majesty, the late King Hassan the 2nd of Morocco.

  • The Red Sea First Grade Medal from the Ethiopian Government on the 11th of September 1988.
  • The African Football Confederation had organized a gathering of his Colleagues for the Fortieth day commemoration of his death at the Cairo Marriot Hotel during which he was posthumously awarded the first Order of Merit of the Confederation in Gold and with the title "exceptional".
  • The Ethiopian Communities in the U.S.A. & Canada had honored him by dedicating the 1988 edition of their annual football get together to his name.
  • The "Trophy Tessema", for the winners of the African Youth Cup is to date dedicated to his name.
  • The Supreme Council for Sports in Africa had awarded him its Certificate of Honor on the 28th and its Order of Merit in Gold on the 30th of November 1987 respectively.
  • yidnekachew_fifa2"Homage to Tessema" a dinner gathering of the African Football family; in memory of Yidnekatchew Tessema and Horst Dassler was hosted by sports goods manufacturer, Addidas, during the African Nations Cup in Morocco 1988.
  • His Imperial Majesty King Hassan the 2nd of Morocco had dedicated a Sports Complex in Casablanca to the name of Yidnekatchew Tessema.
  • He was given the title of "Honorary President, Posthumous" of the African Football Confederation", at the congress in Morocco 1988.
  • The World Health Organization had awarded him its first "No Tobacco Day" Award on the 7th of April 1988; making him the firs International Sports figure or institution to receive "WHO" recognition.
  • The F.I.F.A. Congress in Zurich July 1988 had awarded him its highest distinction, "the order of merit in gold".
  • On the 19th of August 1997, the African Football Confederation had organized a dinner for the African Football family on a Marriott Hotel Luxury boat on the River Nile in Cairo to commemorate the10TH Anniversary of his death.
  • The Society of Friends of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, has awarded him its second posthumous memorial Certificate, on 14 March 2001, the first being his meritorious father "Tessema Eshete".
  • The Addis Ababa Box Federation has been organizing annual boxing tournaments in his name since the year he passed away.

At its 15th annual Award ceremony held on 27 May 2007, at the Hilton Washington; 1919 Connecticut Avenue, in Washington D.C... "The Society of Ethiopians established in Diaspora" had posthumously honoured Yidnekatchew Tessema with its Highest Recognition Award.