Football has become one of the most popular entertainments in this country, courtesy to the media and the sports journalists working in them.
Today, we have over 60 such men and women serving us in full-gear, glued to their television screens or bending over their personal computers and scrolling over different websites. We have been counting on them for several years now for up-to-date news and views on sports from all over the world.
But we have not reached this far through the modern gadgets of communication only. The vital role of dedicated and highly talented journalists, who were not even trained and skilled for the profession, cannot be underestimated.
Sport journalists, including Fikru Kidane, Solomon Tessema, Yimberberu Mitikie, Gorfineh Yimer and Demissie Damtie were pillars of the profession upon which dozens of present day sports journalists build their career.
While our condolences go to the beloved members of his family, it would be worthy to spend time to recall the legacy left behind by the late Demissie Damtie, who passed away last Monday afternoon at the police Hospital and was buried at the Trinity Cathedral cemetery, in the presence of many prominent officials, sports men and women, friends and fans. Demissie died at the age of 60 after enduring his ailment for the last three years. He had medical treatments here and abroad. Demissie is survived by his three daughters and his wife.
As a child, Demissie lived in Harrargie, Gara Muleta Zone, at a town known as Grawa. His parents moved to Dire Dawa taking him while he was just three years old. Demissie grew to follow suit and emulate the veteran sports journalist Solomon Tessema, even in style and form of broadcasting live transmission.
Demissie tested his talent by reporting the weekend football games and the scores to all the students of his school standing at the flag mast. He, then, upscaled his free and voluntary service by contacting Solomon Tessema who is said to have persuaded him to join the wagon, as they say.
Demissie has since then travelled through the alleys of life reporting with the tone of dedicated enthusiasm. His reporting sometimes even extends exuberance that often deluded spectators to overestimate the ability of our national team to the extent of disappointing fans when the gullible report were proven wrong by the players.
He made no secret about this fact. In one of his interviews, he conveyed the message to his fellow colleagues by saying, "I have a point to make. Work hard and be alert all the time. Don't forget your responsibility. You have to be fair and reliable. Never emulate me and be careful not to be carried away by your sentiments."
Demisie's message has a valuable point. His dedication had no equals. When athlete Derartu Tulu won the 10,000 meters race atBarcelonaOlympic, inSpain, Demissie walked alone from his home in the proximity of the French Embassy to his office at the Patriot's Street, in the dead hours of the night, risking his life for the sake of his audience, to report the victory. That was the time when technology was still lagging, even at the National Radio Station.
Sure, the role of journalists in shaping the opinions of sports fans is vital. But the big question would be to know how sports journalists of our far nation are faring. It is common sight that some meddle through things by mixing professional commentary with reporting facts. Others grab the microphone more often than others with the very intention of persuading people with long talk. Others wrap their words up too fast without sending articulated message.
The major problem all face is overprudence. They are too cautions to call a spade by its name when it comes to giving critical comments on the officials of the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF). This could be a general characteristic of us citizens, all but more so of journalists.
There is no point in denying that sports men and women representing our fair nation are often physically unfit, even if they may be good in the brain work of the games. The coaches almost always defend their teams or better still give fervent hopes that they will win.
A case in point is the argument carried on by some journalists that the EFF has no reason to claim any share or commission fee from the proceeding that a player gets as a signature payment. These reporters fail to see the logic behind the outcome that a player is paid a huge sum of money in a poor country.
Fairness seems to be at stake in football.
After all, isn't football a game where even scoring by hand counts at the time and place where it matters?