After a season filled with various hindrances starting from political unrest to hooliganism to financial struggles of clubs to forfeiting matches; the Ethiopian Premier League (EPL) 2018/19 season concluded last week. Amidst all this, Mekele 70 Enderta has won the EPL title after seeing-off visitors Dire Dawa City 2-1.
Mekele 70 Enderta became the first club to win the EPL title from the Tigray region with 59 points. Gebremedhin Haile has won back to back trophies, first with Jimma Aba Jiffar, and now successfully guiding his team to the summit of the league, making history along the way. Sidama Coffee finished second with 58 points while title contenders Fasil City concluded their season third with 57 points.
Mekele winger and national team player, Amanuel Gebremicheal has finished the season on top of the goal scorers list with 17 goals.
Unlike the previous seasons, the 2018/19 EPL competition was blighted with several problems across the country. Football hooliganism, match fixing, political unrest and refereeing decisions were among the main reasons for many postponed matches. In weekly match fixtures, it was not possible to play away games safely as the regions divided promoting their own political interests. Many fans ended-up injured due to hooliganism and many more matches were postponed.
At the beginning of the season, the games between two regional clubs, Amhara and Tigray regional clubs were impossible to conduct due to the political unrest in the region. Additionally, the matches between Southern clubs were also difficult to hold and many fans were severely injured and property damages were also reported.
Making each week hard for football lovers across the country, match week 30 EPL fixtures saw complaints about refereeing decisions. Fasil City travelled to Suhul Shire to play its last and pivotal game. Fasil City was the other club who had a chance to win the title alongside Mekele and Sidama Coffee.
Fasil City's draw against Suhul shire (1-1) foiled their chances of winning the title, as Mekele won against Dire Dawa (2-1). The Emperors have been complaining over the decision of referees and the violence between fans. Furthermore, Ethiopia Coffee and Mekele Enderta were also embroiled in their own controversy leading to Ethiopia Coffee announcing to leave the league, if the Ethiopian football governing body is not going to solve the situation.
Following the violence between the clubs, the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) decided to suspend the EPL. A game scheduled to take place during the 27th week of the EPL between Ethiopia Coffee and Mekele 70 Enderta was canceled on grounds of alleged security concerns; and the federation evaluated its impact during the emergency meeting. However, after holding discussions with club management officials and Addis Ababa Police Commission, the Federation decided to reschedule the matches.
Elsewhere, St. George, another heavyweight in the league, complained stating that as long as their pleas are not met, the club will no longer participate in the premier league. Following week 29 EPL match between Fasil City and St. George; the horsemen confirmed that it has forfeited the game leading the EFF to award the three points to Fasil City.
Going further, St. George has also forfeited week 30 fixture against Wolita Dicha with the three points going to Wolita Dicha.
It is to be recalled that St. George and Ethiopia Coffee officially announced to leave the EPL. Meanwhile, Fasil City has also announced to no longer play in Tigray region stadium for the coming EPL season.
Due to the overall violence in football across the country, several football experts are suggesting that the tournament format should be changed. The capital city's top clubs St. George and Ethiopia Coffee have already showed their interest through supporting the change of the league format. The current format allows all regional clubs to compete at a regional level and at the end of the tournament, will compete at a national level to identify the overall champion to represent at the CAF club tournaments.
Nonetheless, several football experts also argued that the current EPL format should continue. However, according to various sources, the EFF is holding discussions with experts to totally change the name of the clubs named after the regions and directly linked with political views. It is to be recalled that the stance of these capital city clubs will play a great role to decide the future.
The 2018/19 EPL season witnessed Defense, Dedebit and South Police battle it out to avoid the drop but ended up being relegated. Unexpectedly, Addis Ababa clubs participating in the EPL are now only down to two clubs after the army side was relegated. Welkite City, Hadiya Hossana and Sebeta City have earned their promotion to the 2019/20 EPL season.