Diski, a South African phrase, refers to a style of football that includes showboating, with ludicrously exaggerated fake passes, fiendishly convoluted displays of ball control and all kinds of provocative touches. One may even observe players gliding over the ball to goad their opponents into hasty challenges.

The growth of diskimay have been an unintentional outcome of the international isolation of South Africa during its long years of Apartheid. As some may argue, it is among the most dazzling style of football in the world. Here in Ethiopia, there are also people who argue that our football needs to tolerate this dazzlingly expressive type of football philosophy, fit to the average body size of players.

This is the sort of topic that comes up between two friends obsessed with soccer – I and a long-time friend, with whom I used to meet during weekends to watch football. On Saturdays was the English Premier League on TV, and on Sundays, a local match at the Addis Abeba Stadium. It was immediately apparent that two clubs fielded more wins among their ranks, dominating the championships. Thus, immediately we were turned into fawning admirers of two clubs from the respective leagues.

Yet, that also changed after a while. Hence, he went for Manchester United as I opted to become a supporter of Arsenal. Locally, he was an Ethio Electric fan as I was for Ethiopian Insurance. This was decades in the making.

After many years of absence, the two local teams are now promoted to the Ethiopian Premier League. It was to share our happiness and reminiscence the good old days the clubs had in the lower league, and at the same time watch a game as Arsenal hosted Manchester United, that we met again. The latter two were struggling to earn a spot at the UEFA Champions League, the European championship; a match Arsenal came out on top in the end.

Looking back, it was the money-spinning television rights sales that skyrocketed the English Premier League to international fame. Today, it is the most-watched sports league in the world, a broadcast potential of billions of people in TV audience. Most stadium occupancies are near capacity. Thus, it helped clubs to strengthen their financial muscles and started a revival beginning in the 1990s, and the strongest among these are enjoying more success in several cup competitions.

The Premier League ranks first based on performances in European competitions over the past half a decade. It has produced the second-highest number of UEFA Champions, with five English clubs having won fourteen European trophies in total. No wonder then that only a few have not heard of Manchester or Arsenal football teams worldwide.

This all is because the league attracts and retains players who have what it takes to play football. Technically and physically fit within the mounting pace of the game, with the attitude to play at the highest level, they are champions that help clubs win games. The more of these skilled players one can find and attract, the more successful clubs become.

Take Chelsea, as the league attracted more investment over the past half a century, they have been the most successful in the club’s history. It is all about tapping huge money and effective leadership into the passion, and the rest is history. Otherwise, it is nothing other than unforced international isolation, which, if lucky, may produce styles such as diski.

My friend and I vowed to continue supporting the local clubs with a renewed focus. But the clubs need to be innovative in attracting investment so that they can lure in talent. Many of them can start by creating a website and broadening their reach with supporters using merchandise sales and promotion. Good business mindedness is just as critical in winning championships as having great players.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 30,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1148]

Tadesse Tsegaye (seetadnow@gmail.com), a polyglot with experience in multicultural-cum-institutional settings in resources management.

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