ESFNA: A Brief History
ESFNA, by virtue of its legal status, is free of political, religious, and ethnic affiliations and organizations. We have adhered to this position all along because our focus is to promote sports and culture. However, outside of the sports events, ESFNA has contributed in initiatives to be part of development and humanitarian efforts in Ethiopia.
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 D.C.
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.
The First Tournament
The first tournament was held in Houston with the participation of four clubs (Washington D.C., Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta) on April 20, 1984. A year later, the tournament was held in Washington D.C. with additional clubs.
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. Visitors 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.