AFCON 2013 | meet the stars – Saladin Said

Ethiopians are returning to the local football stadia after years of apathy that saw them switch to European and English Football League for consolation. Apart from the world beating Ethiopian Athletes led by Haille GabreSellasie, the name Saladin Said is regarded as the most celebrated symbol in Ethiopian football.

The Wadi Degla FC forward has emerged as an instant household name and poster boy after his decisive goals in the two World Cup qualifiers. Said, 24, is Ethiopia’s top scorer this year with three goals from six qualifiers, including a 1-1 draw against South Africa in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match. Said is however happy with football progress in Ethiopia. He says many football players in Ethiopia are currently enjoying improved financial status as compared to their predecessors in the 1090’s. Despite Ethiopia falling narrowly to feature in subsequent Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, Said say’s he does not regret any single day spend in the National team as he has so far achieved things he probably would have not outside the National team He believes football structures have greatly improved in his country and players are on a positive path which is to raise the standard of the game.

The Egyptian based player with Wadi Degla FC was the leading scorer in the Ethiopian Premier League season from 2007–08, where he scored 21 goals in 17 games and was awarded top scorer of the league. In 2010 he was on trial with Serbian side Partizan but the transfer did not go through. In 2011 he scored in the 2011 Kagame Inter-club Cup game against AS Port from Djibouti with five goals in one game.

On 9 October 2011, he got transferred to Egyptian side Wadi Degla FC who paid 2,040,000 Ethiopian birrs ($ 240,000 US), the highest sum ever had been paid for an Ethiopian footballer. Indeed, he will be remembered for saving Ethiopia from imminent defeats. During the Africa zone qualifying match for the World Cup 2014 between South Africa and Ethiopia at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg. South Africa, he scored for Ethiopia the consolation goal in the match that ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

In 2011, Saint George FC accepted an Ethiopian record-shattering 2 million and 40 thousand Birr ($240,000 US) transfer fee from Egyptian club Wadi Degla for Salhadin Seid. Fear however gripped Ethiopia after Said suffered a thigh injury during their recent 2-0 2014 World Cup qualifying win over the Central African Republic (CAR). But the player was declared fit by team doctors in Addis Ababa to play against Benin in next weekend’s 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier second leg. The Egypt-based striker, 24, scored both goals for Ethiopia, who have not played in the Nations Cup since 1982. His two goals against CAR sparked wild celebrations around the country as Ethiopia, who have never qualified for the World Cup at the senior level, moved to the top of Group A with four points. CAR is in the second position with three points, followed by South Africa with two and Botswana with one point in bottom place.

His prowess has sparked fear with Zambia’s Chipolopolo coach Herve Renard describing Said as a dangerous man to watch. He warned his players to be wary of the threat posed by the Ethiopian striker.