Soccer-Ethiopians try 'Twitter diplomacy' to lure top talent

Reuters

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By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA, Oct 18 (Reuters) - A World Cup berth appears unlikely after their home defeat to Nigeria but a growing legion of Ethiopian fans are taking to Twitter to lure overseas-based players eligible to represent the Walyas.

Nigeria came from behind to snatch a last-gasp 2-1 win over Ethiopia in the first leg of their playoff in Addis Ababa after two goals from Emmanuel Emenike helped them take a big step towards next year's finals in Brazil.

But Ethiopia's fans have now found something to cheer about as their largely-domestic based Walyas - named after an endemic antelope - could be boosted by a small contingent of players plying their trade in Europe.

After Arsenal's 16-year old prodigy Gedion Zelalem - who is also eligible to play for Germany and the United States - tweeted "Still proud" following Sunday's loss, Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom took on the task of luring the young Gunner.

"Hi Gedion. Good to hear from you. We hope you will play for Ethiopia soon," he tweeted back.

Tedros also contacted Norway-based striker Askar Amin, who plays for top flight side Brann, via the micro-blogging platform.

"I just spoke to Amin on the phone and he's very positive about playing for our country. Thanks so much Amin!," the official tweeted.

Ethiopian fans have now launched what they dub a "Twitter diplomacy" campaign to snap up Arsenal midfielder Zelalem, under "#ZelalemForEthiopia".

"Join #ZelalemForEthiopia and share your thoughts if you want to see Gedion Zelalem to join the Walyas," tweeted @Fahologist, a Kinshasa-based Ethiopian.

Walyas' coach Sewnet Bishaw said he would not contact Zelalem personally.

"Unless he sends his application to the (Ethiopian Football) Federation, or calls one of the football officials or me, how can I bring him? I don't even know his address," he told Reuters.

"If he decides to play for Ethiopia and asks us, then things will be easy."

Zelalem, currently sidelined through injury, impressed during Arsenal's pre-season tour of Asia before he was named among the substitutes for the Premier League match against Fulham in August.

Arsenal fans have labelled him the "new Fabregas" after the Spaniard Cesc Fabregas who transferred from the Premier League club to Barcelona. (Reporting by Aaron Maasho, editing by Justin Palmer)

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