Ethiopian influencer dreams of 2026 World Cup

"Yes, it's a long shot, but we do have a chance."

In Summary
  • The Walias take on Sierra Leone on Wednesday's qualifier at 'home' with the match being played in El Jadida, Morocco.
  • The current team has not played a competitive game in their home country in over two years, because their national Bahir Dar Stadium - and 21 other arenas - have inadequate facilities.
Zewdu met EFF president Esayas Jira (left) and Guido Fienga (right), the chief executive of Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, as he builds partnerships for the national federation
Zewdu met EFF president Esayas Jira (left) and Guido Fienga (right), the chief executive of Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, as he builds partnerships for the national federation
Image: HANDOUT

Ethiopian influencer Yohanes Zewdu believes the men's team, nicknamed the Walias, can qualify for the 2026 World Cup despite not staging their home matches in their own country.

The Walias take on Sierra Leone on Wednesday's qualifier at 'home' with the match being played in El Jadida, Morocco.

Ethiopia's recent Afcon qualifying matches have been played in Malawi, Mozambique and Morocco.

The current team has not played a competitive game in their home country in over two years, because their national Bahir Dar Stadium - and 21 other arenas - have inadequate facilities.

The East Africans have never qualified for the Fifa World Cup, while the last time they advanced beyond the group stage of the Africa Cup of Nations was in 1968 when they came fourth in a tournament they hosted.

"I want Ethiopia to make it to the 2026 World Cup in the United States. Yes, it's a long shot, but we do have a chance," Zewdu, who is professionally known as 'Johnny Vegas', told the BBC."

"I'm not a coach, I'm not a technical director. I'm there to provide that mental support."

Born and raised in Addis Ababa in the 1980s, Zewdu's story is an unbelievable one.

Arriving in Las Vegas aged 10 with his mother, he has sprung himself from the lowest rung of the Vegas strip into a lifestyle fixer for sporting superstars, a social media influencer, and now a role as the international liaison and strategic advisor for the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF).

"I've been in this role four months now. My job is to be a bridge between the EFF and other leagues, federations and brands," he said.

"We have a pool of talent of young people who love this sport, and they need just a little push, a little opportunity."