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Oromo Soccer

Author(s): Christine Wilson Owens
Reviewer(s): Sheiko Nagawo; Mama Argo
Date Authored: January 01, 2001

Oromo Soccer TeamCongratulations to Seattle's Oromo soccer team, Madda Walaabu, for winning third place at the 2001 Oromo National Soccer Tournament! They placed a close third behind Gadaa of Minnesota, the second place team, and Finfinnee, the first place team that included two players from Ethiopia's professional soccer team. More than a dozen teams from the US and Canada competed in the games which were held in Minneapolis, Minnesota during the final days of July and the first days of August. Harborview Medical Center's own Children's Clinic nurse, Mama Argo, coached Seattle's team to success and received the Award for Best Coach in honor of his team's outstanding sportsmanship. Madda Walaabu was the only team that did not engage in fights with opponents or receive any official penalties, despite playing long days in an oppressive 115-degree heat. Coach Argo, however, received a warning or two from the referees - for carrying water to his thirsty players on the field!

Madda Walaabu is a symbol of success for Seattle's Oromo community. The soccer team is a source of pride among Oromos who were involved in the popular sport in their homeland and who are now establishing a soccer tradition here. The community believes support for the team is part of their commitment to building a healthy Oromo community in Seattle.

Commitment to health is not new to Oromos. Staying in good physical condition through exercise is a normal practice for them. In Minneapolis, Oromo elders discussed the importance of discouraging Oromo youth from picking up unhealthy habits now that they are living in urban America. The community worries that the integration process may compromise traditional Oromo values like maintaining good physical health.

The Madda Walaabu soccer players are young men in their teens and twenties who are choosing soccer as a healthy alternative to some of the destructive and dangerous options of young urban life, and their community is proud of them. Madda Walaabu's success was celebrated with a dinner and awards ceremony sponsored by the Oromo Community Organization of the Seattle Metropolitan Area (OCOSMA). This organization was established in 1991 to assist community members in need. Currently, OCOSMA leaders have plans to develop a track and field program and women's soccer to further support Oromo community health through sports.

Traditionally, Oromos are close-knit and self-reliant, looking out for their own community. In the past decade, the Oromo population in Seattle has grown from a few hundred people to more than two thousand. OCOSMA leaders and community elders realize that supporting the healthy integration of so many people means developing working partnerships outside the Oromo community.

In the case of Madda Walaabu, the team had been unable to attend the previous two tournaments due to lack of money. This year, OCOSMA combined efforts with a member of Harborview Medical Center's Community House Calls program to obtain a grant that supplemented tournament costs, covered for the most part by the players and their community. OCOSMA and Coach Argo also worked with Harborview to sponsor six health education presentations for the team and their families. Discussion of the topics (injury prevention, effects of drug and alcohol abuse, tobacco abuse, first aid for sports, and nutrition and sport) were built into the team's practice schedule. At the celebration dinner, Oromo elders recognized Madda Walaabu as leading their community by exemplifying physical fitness and health. Harborview's Community House Calls program was recognized as a valued community partner in promoting the health of Seattle's Oromo community.