By Dr. Salah Jimi
Like elsewhere in Eritrea and perhaps in the world, sport activities in Keren primarily conducted at two levels- the town's league and as part of the educational system. There were also strong football competitions at suburbs' (Hillet) level. In this first part, the focus is on the town's football league. The second part will shed light on various sport activities at Keren High School and other schools in the town, encompassing football, Basketball, Volleyball and different types of athletics. The purpose of documenting sport history in Keren is to give it its right place in the Eritrean history. The period of interest in this and the follow-up article is 1970 to 1990.
The people of keren are sport-loving in general but have had great affection for football in particular. The town was endowed with talented footballers like Yohannes Weldezion (Joker) and Ismael Mahmoud who were key players of Asmara/Hamassien team; Aragay G/Ezgabeher, another highly-skilled footballer from Keren played for Emba-soira, the rival team to Asmara team in the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, Tesfalem G/Meskel, a highly-gifted footballer from Keren represented Ethiopia at the national level to play in the Africa Cup of Nations in Khartoum. A brief history of sport in Keren, narrated by one of the talented footballers of the early 1970s, Tesfagabir Mesgina, spanning over the period late 1960s to early 1970s can be accessed here: www.sweetkeren.net
Also, in early 1980s, one can recall young generation of talented footballers like Desta Embaye, Hashem Ibrahim, Toshome...., Awate Idris, Efrem Kidane, Abdulaziz Idris, Tejar G/Selassie, Idris ...., Kibreab Abraha, Mohmed-Idris Abe, etc. And in the late 1980s, numerous star footballers like Nasir Abdu, Gabsha....,Khalid Ali Idris Nour, Desse...., Hassan Omer Ali Karrar, Yemane Bashay, Yassin Jimi, Menassie Kidane, Abdulahi Musa Hajj, (Tesfalidet & Temesgen Abraha), Mohamed-Saeed, etc. entertained dwellers of Keren. The names of the 1970s and 1980s tell an interesting story- a rich cultural diversity existed back then that has sadly enough been absent in our recent history, including at the 'national' level. It is in this context this article is written- to shed light on the multi-cultural aspect of sport/football history in Keren, and how sport was a unifying factor of the diverse social groups in the town.