by Mr Ibrahim Haj   06-12-2004

As we grow up in Eritrea there used to be a perception. People perceived that everything that came from Asmara was the best.

There was a strong belief that the people from the capital city were good at everything.  They talked better, walked better, sang better, played football and told jokes better compared to the rest of the people. And not surprisingly many found it as sort of a fashion to be imitating the Asmarinos.

If you asked if so and so was good in football?  “Of course he is”. People will tell you. “He is Asmarino”

Is so and so was good in English? ” Of course he is. He is Asmarino”. Some would argue.

That obsession with the capital city was not peculiar to Eritrea. It is every where. People in Kassala, for example, often dreamt of “Khartoum be-lail”

Back then, “Asmarino” was associated with  sophistication.  Asmarinos were seen as people in a class of their own. The Asmarinos  themselves sort of believed that. Their football clubs occasionally travelled to Massawa or  keren  or Mendefera for  friendly matches.  They became so furious when beaten. They always  blamed the weather or the referee. Sheer arrogance!

But that perception was not necessarily always true. Some Asmarinos were good at certain things. But that was not always the case. Let me tell you this funny story.

“Yamane, an Asmarino, came to Massawa at the end of a school holiday. One of the local clubs in Massawa approached him to play for them in a crucial match against a tough rival club. An arch enemy.

Yemane agreed with no preconditions.

The club officials did not bother to check if Yemane was really a good player. They did not bother to check his credentials as football player. They did not even inquire about the club that Yemane had played for in Asmara. He was an Asmarino and that by itself was enough.

Of course he did not volunteer to tell them the truth. The truth was Yemane had never played football in Asmara. He had spent his time drifting from one night club to another.

When the rival club, the team  that Yemane was to play against  found out, they declared an emergency. They subjected their team to an  extracurricular training an excruciating  training. Their best two defenders were given the job of keeping  that “dangerous”  Asmarino player under control.

“Key-tegedfwo”  was the coach’s instructions to his players.

On the match day the Yemane the Asmarino emerged wearing #10. Yes exactly like Pele.

From the word go the best two defenders followed Yemene wherever he went like a shadow. Yemane had had  no match fitness . He did not move a lot. But they thought that was a trick by Yemane preserving his energy for the right moment.  Asmarinos were always smarter.

There was a great expectation from him. His team mates used him as focal point of their attack. They invariably kicked the ball in Yemane’s  direction, whenever they got possession of it.

“Newedi Asmara habo, newedi Asmara habo” The fans kept urging the other ten players.

But that exposed Yemane more and more.  His match fitness was second to zero. But the coach persisted with him. They did not lose faith in him.   

First half finished and  second half resumed. But Yamane had not done much. In fact he had not touched the ball let alone score a goal.

Yeman’s team  was 3 goals down..

By now the coach had  realised the embarrassing  position  they had put the club into by recruiting the untried  Asmarino.

The fans became furious. They started calling for his blood “Get him off…get him off.. “ “Awzayou, Awzayou”. Things got ugly. Yemane left the ground under the protection of the police.

A big lesson had been learned. After all not every Asmarinos were good at everything.

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