Eritreans have been enthused fans for a variety of sports. However, when it comes to most popular national sports among both genders and different walks of life, nothing comes ahead of cycling, football, volleyball and long distance running. Among the three, football comes to the fore.
In 1962, when Eritrea was under Ethiopian domination, the Ethiopian national football team beat Egypt national team in the finals and won championship of the 3rd African Cup of Nations. Many leading players of the then Ethiopian national team were Eritreans. The love of this sport seemingly goes one could say ‘from the cradle to the grave’. You will even be struck to observe children everywhere affectionately playing football in the streets or rough ground, using home-made balls of compacted cloth.
Basketball, tennis, body-building, swimming, athletics, gymnastics, table-tennis, weight-lifting and martial arts are among the many sports practiced on a small scale or sporadically in major cities and towns in sport stadiums and courts (for example in Asmara ‘Asmara Stadium’ and ‘Bochiofilla volleyball/ Basketball court).
Traditional sports and camel racing (especially among the Rashaida, Tiger and Beni Amer tribes) are also popular sports and pastime in the Eritrean villages and the lowlands respectively.
Many sports had their start during the Italian colonial era, mostly during the 1930’s. Like any other socioeconomic and public activity, all kind of sports came to a hiatus with the brutal Ethiopian domination. After independence, the new Eritrean government was tasked with thriving sports from scratch. Now every region, town and administrations within regions and towns have their own team, with regional and national competitions being held throughout the year, especially during holidays such as the country’s Independence Day.
Moreover, the country has attended regional and international sport events, registered notable scores and has amassed several gold and silver medals in soccer, cycling and long distance running. To just mention two notable achievements: Eritrea National Cycling Team stood first in the African championship in the 9th continental competition held in Egypt in 2013, reaping gold medals; while the athletic national team won gold medals in half marathon competition in 2014 and stood 15th at the 15th World Championship in 2015 held in Denmark and Beijing, China respectively.
Eritrea’s sports heavyweights include international Athlete Zerisenai Tadesse (stood first in international half marathon 5 consecutive times); Athele Girmay Gebresselasie won the gold medal in men’s marathon at Beijing’s World Championship in 2015; international cyclists Daniel Teklehaimanot (the country’s fastest cyclist, Best African Sportsman of 2012, 4 times champion of African chronometer competition) and Natnael Berhane reaped several medals; the Eritrean cycling coach Mussie Asihel won Africa’s Distinguished coach Award in 2014; and the list could go on.
Tour de France 2015
Netherlands, on 4 July 2015, and concluded with the Champs-Élysées stage in Paris, on 26 July. A total of 198 riders from 22 teams entered the 21-stage race.
Cyclist Daniel Teklehaimanot recorded a new history in the 6th stage of Tour de France by being the first Eritrean and first African to wear the polka dot jersey after winning the King of Mountains jersey. He demonstrated higher spirit of competitiveness in the 191.5 Km long race escaping over 80% of the competition amid broad media coverage worldwide.
At the age of 21, cyclist Merhawi Kudus was the youngest rider in the race; he was among the 10 best riders under age 25.
Eritrean cyclists Daniel Teklahaimanot and Merhawi Kudus were accorded hero welcome upon arrival on July 31, 2015 in Asmara following their shining victory in the Tour de France 2015.
TOUR OF ERITREA (GIRO ERITREA)
Eritreans have been enthused fans for a variety of sports. However, when it comes to most popular national sports among both genders and different walks of life, nothing comes ahead of cycling and football.
The Tour of Eritrea (‘Giro Eritrea’ in Italian) is a 10-staged cycling race held annually throughout the country, traversing various geographical regions – the cool highlands (central and south region), the warm semi-desert lowlands (Gash-Barka Region) and the hot coastal areas (Northern Red Sea Region, mainly Massawa and its environs). After the tour is undertaken, respective jerseys are accorded to the winners: the previous stage’s winner with a ‘blue jersey’, the climbing contest winner with ‘red jersey’, and the overall Tour leader with a ‘yellow jersey’.
It first tournament went back to the end of World War II, circa 1946, and was promoted by the then Italian community in Eritrea with the name “Primo Giro dell’ Eritrea”. It had five stages, with the grueling stage being “Stage of the Mountain” (‘Premio Della Montagna’ in Italian). Back then 34 cyclist took part and it was won by ‘Nunzlo Barila’ of the team A.C. Plemonte.
After a half centuries standstill, it was revived in the independent Eritrea by the year 2001 in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Eritrean independence. It has been held annually since then.
Tour of Eritrea is the most animated sport event held annually in Eritrea, following by thousands of cheering fans and with some 100 professional Eritrean cyclists. Lately, it has attracted several national and international cycling teams from other countries, which enthusiastically took part in this tournament.
Like what happens in the ‘Tour de France’ of France and the ‘Giro d’Italia of Italy, the Tour of Eritrea is a highly anticipated event and has been vivaciously followed around the roads by cycling buffs and other spectators- by both the Eritrean population and many tourists.
Regarding the Tour of Eritrea schedule and its other details, Explore Eritrea Travel & Tours is there to assist you. This can also be arranged along with your other trips to the country at your convenience. Hence, don’t hesitate to contact us; we would love to hear from you!!!