Kampala — Ethiopia assistant coach, Seyoum Kebede, has defended the decision to test new players at the CECAFA Challenge Cup, insisting it is still part of their Africa Cup of Nations preparations.
The East African nation are sending a squad which includes 14 uncapped players, of which three are based overseas.
Ethiopia's 21-man squad contains just one regular player from both the Nations Cup and World Cup campaigns.
"It's been 31 years since we last played at the Nations Cup and we have to start thinking about building the national team in a different way," Kebede explains.
Many were expecting the 1962 African champions to field their full-strength side as an opportunity to benefit from competitive games before heading to South Africa.
Instead the Ethiopians have opted to scour Europe for eligible players, whilst building a second string side as part of their preparations for the Cup of Nations.
"The players who've been part of the World Cup and Nations Cup campaigns need to recuperate," coach Kebede said.
"We don't want to take them immediately from the CECAFA and straight into the Nations Cup because maybe their performance might decline.
"We are also getting many contacts from Ethiopian-born players from different corners like Yusuf Salah from Sweden, who has arrived already and we would like to see him play at the CECAFA level.
The current head coach Sewnet Bishaw guided Ethiopia to the Cup of Nations in South Africa, but Kebede will be leading the coaching staff for the regional event in Uganda.