DC: Ethiopian Soccer Tournament Promoting Unity Leads to Division

Afewerki Tadesse of the Maryland Axum waits to take part in Sunday’s opening ceremonies of the AESAOne 2012 soccer tournament at RFK Stadium. (Photo: Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Washington Post
By Annys Shin

Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012

A black pickup truck slowly circled RFK Stadium. Its sole cargo was a billboard bearing the images of a starving child, a man with a swastika on his forehead, piles of money and a soccer ball.

Just inside the stadium, the All Ethiopian Sports Association’s first annual soccer tournament, a six-day extravaganza promoting oneness among Ethiopians in America, was getting underway.

The description of the event on the billboard was slightly different. It read, “Blood Money Festival.”

Unity can be so divisive sometimes.

Ethio­pians living in the United States are used to navigating political differences that stem from power struggles in their native country. But for decades, amateur soccer leagues were immune. Now, the controversy surrounding the tournament, which began Sunday and ends this weekend, has injected political overtones into a beloved sport.

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