For the March 2001 tournament, the venue was Addis Ababa where the stadium was spruced up for the 12th CAF championship for the U-20s. This was the first international competition to be staged in Ethiopia since 1976 when the 10th African Nations Cup was held there.
After twenty-five years' absence from the international scene, great changes have taken place in Ethiopian football, which is now going through a period of reconstruction and trying to re-establish its image. The Tessema generation has gone. Their successors are trying hard to get things moving quickly, and Addis Ababa (which means new flower in Amharic) rolled out the red carpet for the seven finalist teams in the competition.
A factor that all the teams had to contend with was the altitude, which came as a surprise to those that had not prepared for it. Addis Ababa, the third largest city in Africa with more than five million inhabitants, is located on the southern slopes of the Entoto mountains at an altitude of 2300 - 2500 metres. Teams that had not done their geography homework as part of their preparation for the competition found that they were running out of breath faster than usual in the course of a match and their performances began to flag. The young Ghana team, coached by the indefatigable E.K. Afrani, were fine in their opening matches against Angola and Nigeria, but the pace of their game dropped noticeably in the semi-final and final, and they failed to defend the title which they had hoped would be theirs again.
At the other end of the scale, the "Palancas Negras" of Angola seemed to struggle at the start of the competition and then got stronger. Under their open and friendly coach Oliveira Goncalves-Luis they beat Nigeria (2-0), Ethiopia (5-2) and then Ghana in the final (2-0) to carry off the Ydnekatchew Tessema trophy, the first success in Angola's football history. They were an athletic, strong, competitive team, with no technical weaknesses and some impressive individual players such as Manuel Pedro "Mantorras" who is already a professional with Alverca (Portugal) and goalkeeper Mamoma Joao Luis "Lama", whose confidence was typical of the whole team. He plays for Petro Luanda and looks to be a rising star on the African football scene. The Argentine football fans will enjoy watching this young keeper in action during the FIFA U-20 championship later in the year.
Also representing Africa in South America will be Ghana, who played their usual technically skilful, fast game, at both the individual and team level, and they too had some talented players in their ranks, such as mid-fielders Stephen Oduro, Derrick Boateng, Sulley Muntari Ali, or centre-forward Ismael Addo. Egypt were coached by a former CAN winner Shawki Gharib, and they played a European type of game, based upon a robust defence and clever counter-attacks aimed at getting their attacking pivot Mohamed El Yamani (a professional with Standard Liege) into the action.
Also battling for a place in the FIFA finals were the surprise team from Ethiopia, who had an up and down competition. Beaten in their opening game by a rather laborious Cameroon team (0-1) they came close to overcoming Egypt (2-2) before demolishing South Africa (4-1). Thus they somewhat surprisingly found themselves in the semi-finals, where they were not able to hold the sturdy Angolans and lost 2-5. In the 3rd place play-off they met Egypt again, but this time they failed to find a way through their opponent's defensive network and went down 0-2. But for the enthusiastic home fans and the officials trying to get Ethiopian football on the move again this was a success; for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics an Ethiopian team will be taking part in a FIFA world championship. They well deserve their tickets to Argentina, although their new French coach, Diago Garzitto, will have some work to do before they set off.
Manuel Pedro "Mantorras" (Angola)
Graca Amaral Felisbertos "Gilberto" and Tomas Cuxixima Lourenço "Lolo"" (Angola), Mohamed El Yamani (Egypt), Abay Yordanos (Ethiopia)
Ashenafi Girma (Ethiopia), Muntari Ali Sulley (Ghana)
Garzitto is of Italian extraction and his father was a carpenter from Frioul. Diago played professionally for Ajaccio, was once coach of Jura-Sud, a team that made Cup history in France in 1999, and it was quite by chance that he took the job of coaching the U-20 team in Addis Ababa. But thanks to this success his team will soon be mixing it with the best in the world, and two of the players who should be worth watching in Argentina will be the wingers, Abay Yordanos and Seman Hussein.
Among the disappointments in the heights of Ethiopia were Nigeria (known as the Green Eaglets), coached by the former star Stephen Keshi, South Africa (Bafana Bafana), despite the talent of Steven Pienaar (Ajax Amsterdam), and Cameroon (the Untameable Lions) who were collectively inconsistent even though the team included two players of the Olympic champion side in Idriss Carlos Kameni and Joel Tchami, not to mention a total of 13 professionals in the squad. Mali too did not live up to expectation; they had some outstanding players such as Mamadou Diawara and Mamadou Diallo, but as a team they sometimes seemed to lack a clear idea about their tactics.
The Ethiopian fans were very enthusiastic to see international football again but showed their disappointment clearly by invading the pitch during the farcical match Cameroon v Egypt. CAF sanctioned both teams for this performance (no points for either side for their lack of effort, and disregard of the sporting spirit and ethic), as well as the behaviour of the crowd.