ESFNA’s growth in North America has its roots in Ethiopians’ migration to the United States and Canada—especially since the 1980s. Although there were some inter-state friendly soccer competitions in both coasts of the US amongst Ethiopians, the foundation of ESFNA was first envisioned by Ethiopians residing in the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington DC, , . The first tournament was held in Houston with the participation of four clubs (Washington DC, Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta) on April 20, 1984. Because of communication problem the Boston and the LA teams were unable to participate in that first tournament. A year later, the tournament was held in Washington D.C. with additional clubs.
In 1985, in addition to the soccer tournament, ESFNA member teams elected officers responsible for managing the Federation under a new format. A lot has changed since then; perhaps the most significant being the adoption of operating by-laws, tournament rules and regulation (ESFNA Disciplinary Codes) of the games and the establishment of a federal tax- exempt status in the United States.
Some of the founding principles of ESFNA were borne out of the desire for Ethiopians at the time and in the future to have something they claim as their own for generations. A week-long occasion at which Ethiopians can come together to celebrate their culture, identity and assure the continuity of their ideals in perpetuity. It was a vision of organizing a platform at which Ethiopians can come to express their humanity through sports and other cultural interactions amongst themselves and the North American community. Its goals are also providing positive role models for the youth by inviting famous Ethiopians who have done much for their country through sports, arts and the humanities.
Over the past three decades, ESFNA has become a cultural and sports Mecca for Ethiopians in North America. Every year, thousands of Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia spend one week in one of the 25 North American cities selected as a host city; they watch dozens of soccer games amongst the 30 member clubs.
Pilgrims also witness and interact with hundreds of food and dry good vendors and non-profit charitable organizations--in one venue. However, much happens surrounding the soccer tournament independent of ESFNA—which is exactly what the organization envisioned since its inception. Along the way, every year, Ethiopians spend millions of dollars in the host city--making a major contribution to the local economy.
ESFNA, by virtue of its status, has no political, religious, ethnic organization and/or other affiliations. We have adhered to this position all along because we are legally expected to take such a stance and our focus is sports and culture. However, outside of the sports events, ESFNA has contributed in initiatives to be part of development and humanitarian efforts in Ethiopia.