African Football Stories


 Builder of a Continent

Whenever I am asked to drop the name of a great character in the history of African football, I always think about the late Yidnekatchew Tessema. I knew his name even before I heard about his multiple achievements as a true builder of the African football stage.

Born in Ethiopia in September 1921, he would have been 100 years old this year. Tessema was a one-club man – Kedus Giorgis (Amharic), best known as Saint-George from Addis-Ababa, that he joined the year it was founded (1935) as a student.

Later on, he eventually became an important player there and the top scorer. He played for the club until 1957 and also for the new-born national team of Ethiopia.

At a very young age, Tessema – who was the son of a former Minister of Telegraph and Posts – opted to become a sports administrator in his native Ethiopia. 

In 1943, he was named Secretary General of the Ethiopian Football Federation.

On February 8th, 1957, he joined other founding fathers of the African Football Confederation in Khartoum (Sudan). He soon become a vice president of the continental institution.

Later on, Tessema will be president of the Ethiopian Olympic Committee. And in 1972, he got elected President of CAF, after being vice-president between 1964 and 1972. He was very committed, very active in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, which will led to the boycott by African nations of the Olympic Games of 1976.

Before becoming a top official on the African stage, Tessema also coached the national team of Ethiopia, leading them to victory in the AFCON edition of 1962 which his country hosted.

Tessema was also a true polyglot, who spoke English, Italian and French very fluently. He died in August 1987 after a protracted illness.

His work at the summit of CAF was essential to the development of competitions on the continent, with the creation of the Champions Cup and Cup Winners Cup.

A big shout out to the memory of someone who worked in all sectors of the game in Africa, helped grow Africa and made Africa a notable continent on the world stage when it mattered – a real foundation builder – Yidnekatchew Tessema!

Written by: FRANK SIMON

Member, Advisory Board, African Football Hall of Fame

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