Headline: Behind the heart beat of Ethiopian football
Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Article Synopsis: Behind Ethiopian football always remains the 43rd richest person in the world, Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi. As much as he loves to watch football in any part of the world, he now plans to buy big international clubs like Australia’s Tasmania Unite and is secretly negotiating with two of the top four clubs in Spain La Liga.
First Paragraph: In 1985 world famous singers got together to sing a charity single that helped raise money for African famine relief at the time. Written by the late Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie and produced by Quicy Jones, this song under the title ‘We are the world’ helped raise more than 63 million USD for Africans. Ethiopia was one of the countries who received the aid.
Keywords: billionaire, Mohammed Al Amoudi, football, club, Ethiopia,
In 1985, world famous singers got together to sing a charity single that helped raise money for African famine relief at the time. Written by the late Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie and produced by Quincy Jones, this song under the title ‘We are the world’ helped raise more than 63 million USD for Africans. Ethiopia was one of the countries who received the aid.
After years Ethiopia came up with her own billionaire who ranks 43rd on the world’s richest person list and is dealing with owners to buy big international football clubs like the Australian club, Tasmania United. He is said to be secretly negotiating with two of the top four clubs in Spain la Liga.
Born in a small village in Ethiopia, to an Ethiopian mother and Yemeni father, Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi is currently the number one billionaire in Africa with a net worth of 9 billion USD. He built his fortune in construction and real estate in Saudi Arabia before betting on energy. Al Amoudi who is now a Saudi citizen began investing in Sweden in 1974 and owns Svenska petroleum and Swedish refinery. His businesses are largely founded within two conglomerate holding and operating companies; Corral Petroleum Holdings and Mohammed International Development Research and Organization Companies (MIDROC) which he owns and manages. He employs over 40,000 people through these companies.
Al Amoudi is also the biggest investor in Ethiopia investing more than 2 billion USD in the country. He owns a gold mine which produces 6 tons of gold annually, and several properties in London and the United States, as well. He donated more than 1 million USD to the Clinton Foundation.
Today’s billionaire who later grew up in Saudi Arabia was at one time an ordinary child who loved to play football, often playing goal keeper. But growing up he knew he wasn’t going to make it to the big clubs or end up as a professional player. He did know that he wanted to remain involved in the game somehow. That is why for more than a decade Al Amoudi remained the back bone of Ethiopian football, supporting the field both morally and financially.
Because he travels all over the world following his business tracks, he watches many of the big games in international stadiums. When he is in Saudi Arabia, he watches selected local games; in the UK he watches his favorite team Arsenal, and if he is in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, he goes to the stadium. Al Amoudi says Thierry Henry is his favorite player, but after Henry left Arsenal he is now reverting to Arsenal mid fielder Francesc Fabrigas. His love for the gunners is so deep that his manager, Abennet G/Meskel thinks he might even have an interest in buying the team. “You never know, anything can happen,” he says.
What makes the world billionaire unique from other investors isn’t his passion for football alone, but his dream of bringing the professionalism he sees overseas to his home town. He has a big vision to see the same football standard in his birth country. That is why he spends millions of dollars every year supporting football in Ethiopia, according to G/Meskel who is also the president of the St. George club.
Al-Amoudi supports St. George, which is one of the country’s top clubs, covering 55% of the club’s yearly budget. He is also covering 90% of the club’s cost to build its own 60 000 seater stadium. “St. George was just an amateur team, before Al-Amoudi came to help,” says G/Meskel. “The club now has its own headquarters, its own training field and a foreign coach and buys professional players from Africa.”
In addition, Al-Amoudi is assisting in the building of three big national stadiums in three regions of the country with international standards. He also brought a French coach, Diego Garzitto to prepare the Ethiopian national team for the African Youth Championship held in Addis Ababa and the World Youth Championship held in Argentina. And this at a cost of 5,500 USD per month, not including his accommodation and transport.
The oldest football Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) senior challenge cup that was out of game for lack of finance was revived after Al Amoudi agreed to sponsor the tournament for three consecutive years.
The Association includes national teams from Central and East Africa – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zanzibar, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and Djibouti. The sponsorship deal is worth 1.5 million USD per year including the cost of transportation and hotel expenses for participating teams, plus the prize money given to the top four finishers. Hence the game being dubbed the Al Amoudi Senior challenge cup.
He also spent more than 2 million USD to cover all transport and accommodation expenses of the Ethiopian delegation that went to 2006 World Cup held in Germany. Al Amoudi has helped a number of Ethiopian football players financially, covering their medical expenses and transport and accommodation costs in the various countries.
Ali Redi was the Ethiopian national team goal keeper who got help from Al-Amoudi. Redi, suffering with leukemia, was told there was no treatment in the country and had to go abroad. But he didn’t have the money to pay for transport or medical expenses. That is when Al-Amoudi came to the proverbial party and sent him to South Africa for treatment, spending about 2 million Birr (180 thousand USD).
“Al-Amoudi gave me a future when I didn’t have one,” Redi says.
Back in May 2004 when the world football governing body, FIFA was celebrating its 100th birthday, Al-Amoudi was presented a grand award by FIFA for giving extraordinary service in football over the last 100 years and striving to develop and promote the game. The event in Paris drew 1500 people, including the FIFA president Joseph.S Blatter, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Minister of Sport Jean-Francois Lamour, Swiss Federal President Joseph Deiss and others. “He is the first investor to get such an award from FIFA and this is a proud moment for the country,” says Ethiopian Football Federation Vice President Teka Asfaw.
The Federation appreciates the billionaire who is helping them financially, making it possible for the national team to take part in international games. He is also sponsor of the Ethiopian premier league with 1.5 million Birr (140 thousand USD) and is funding a Federation youth project. That is why they have a plan to recognize Al-Amoudi at a national level. And why not, for a man who is always behind the heartbeat of Ethiopian football.