Swerving around potholes and speeding through chaotic traffic makes skateboarding the crowded streets of Ethiopia’s capital a risky game.
– #360win: Front row seats to Mayweather vs Pacquiao at Asiana
– On the Radar: This week’s sporting events in the UAE
– VIDEO: Gary Hunt continues to dominate Red Bull Cliff Diving
Yet growing numbers of fans are taking up this once unknown sport in Addis Ababa and attracting the support of skateboarders worldwide.
In the bustling market district of Shiro Meda, gangs of children rattle down the hills, flipping boards painted in the colours of Ethiopia — green, yellow and red — as they show off the latest tricks they’ve learnt.
It’s a tough area, and skateboarding offers moments of fun and escape for the young people living here.
“There’s nothing for the kids in the neighbourhood, nothing to inspire them,” said Israel Dejene, founder of a local skateboarding group, who said he was inspired by watching children slide down the pavements with bits of plastic fixed to the bottom of their shoes for fun.
“These skate sessions are the only positive thing they can do,” added Israel, who named his “Megabiskate” project after the Ethiopian word “megabi”, meaning someone who “gives life to others”.
The group aims to use the sport to help the children, as “a tool to engage the kids, to develop self-esteem, confidence and an alternative lifestyle to the troubles” on the streets.
“Skateboarding creates a positive community, it teaches them to teach each other tricks and promotes a good self-image,” added the dreadlocked Rastafarian musician, who discovered the sport during a visit to Sweden, where he was fascinated by “this board that seemed attached to the feet in the air”.
The project has won international admirers: American professional skateboarders Tony Hawk and Nyjah Huston visited in February bringing with them dozens of boards.
Their visit was excitedly reported on social media, putting the spotlight on Ethiopia’s small but growing community of skateboarders and inspiring still more to join.
The highland city of hills and steep roads is a good place to learn, despite its streets being sometimes crowded with livestock or trucks feeding its building boom.
— Karim Lebhour (@KaLebhour) March 3, 2015
“I live on the top of the mountain, when I leave my house I’m going down for miles of hills at high speed. Addis Ababa is huge for skating,” said Yared Gobeze, a young skater.
Yared joined Ethiopia Skate, a group of skateboarders who meet several times a week in the streets of the capital, doing tricks on boards mostly donated by skaters in Austria and the United States.
“As soon as people see a new sport that they cannot picture in Africa they’re amazed and happy to see it there. It’s amazing,” Yared said.
Some 200 skaters take part, with large and cheering crowds gathering to watch them as they jump curbs, fly down stairs and often fall hard on the ground without any protection.
“We just try to use whatever there is in Addis — even if the spots are pretty bad we just make the best out of it,” said Abenezer Temesgen, one of Ethiopia’s skate pioneers.
Some even block the flow of cars to skate across or down the road, as stunned motorists watch the youngsters speed past, flipping up onto curbs on battered boards.
Well-dressed young women snap photographs of the stunts with their mobile phones, while raggedy children plead for a board, and their turn to try.
“Skating is growing — now we’ve got hundreds of kids skating,” Abenezer said, noting that the emergence of skateboarding in Ethiopia also reflects a yearning for normality, to be like other nations and other young people.
“We’ve been known for being poor, but Ethiopia is bigger than that,” he added. “You can’t represent Ethiopia just by being poor. Coming here skating with the kids makes me love my country.”
Britain's reigning champion Gary Hunt wins the first event of the 2015 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series at Cartagena's Centro de Convenciones in Colombia on Saturday.
We look at the sporting events lighting up the UAE over the next seven days including the countdown to the end of the AGL season, the Shuttle Time Dubai finals and two golf tournaments at two of the country’s most iconic courses.
If we have missed anything please give us a nudge on Twitter using #360Fans @Sport360.
ARABIAN GULF LEAGUE WEEK 24 FIXTURES
Monday, April 27
— walterzengaofficial (@wz1945) April 17, 2015
With just two rounds of matches left in the Arabian Gulf League, it is crunch time at the bottom of the table and the race for continental football is still open despite Al Ain running away with this season’s title.
Week 24 sees Sharjah host Al Jazira at 6pm before a double header at 8:45pm when Al Nasr travel to the Emirates Club Stadium and Al Wahda welcome Al Ain. Our pick of the round? Champions Al Ain taking on a Wahda side looking to end the season as runners-up.
The next round of fixtures are played on Friday, 1st May with a full schedule of games all running at 7:35pm.
Venue: Various across the UAE.
EAFL OFF-SEASON TRAINING
Tuesday, April 28
Running from 6-7:30pm on Tuesday at the EAFL’s Dubai Sports City headquarters, this session is open to young American Footballers looking to improve their skills during the league’s downtime.
Kids aged five to eighteen can take part in the training which starts at Dhs525 per child.
For more information and to reserve a place on the camp, email [email protected].
Venue: Pitch 1, Dubai Sports City Rugby Park
SHUTTLE TIME DUBAI SCHOOLS CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
Wednesday, April 29
Since Dubai was announced as a BWF Finals host, Shuttle Time Dubai has aimed to bring badminton to schools and increase awareness and participation of the sport in the emirates.
Schools have responded well and hundreds of students are now actively playing badminton, with the finals of the inaugural Shuttle Time competition pitting finalists from three different age groups across schools in the UAE.
Venue: Fitness First, Meadows
CITY FOOTBALL SCHOOLS IN AL AIN
April 13 – June 17
City Football Schools at HBZ Stadium offers the best football coaching in the region! Register today! pic.twitter.com/B6xGD76anc
— HBZstadium (@HBZstadium) April 21, 2015
Manchester City’s Football Schools programme is running weekly training sessions for young players in Al Ain over the course of the next two months, bringing the Premier League champions’ style and coaching product to the UAE.
The professional coaching team offers a wide range of sessions available to boys and girls aged 5-14.
All new players will also receive a City Football Schools kit.
Venue: Hazza bin Zayed Stadium
EGC LADIES OPEN & WORLD CORPORATE GOLF QUALIFIER
Friday, May 1
The PING Emirates Ladies Amateur Open tournament graces Emirates Golf Club’s Majlis this weekend as the best amateur women in the UAE go head-to-head around one of Dubai’s most iconic golf courses.
The 18-hole strokeplay format starts at 7am and will prove a test of the finest female golfers in the country.
Elsewhere on the same day, the hugely popular World Corporate Golf Challenge has its latest qualifier at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Venue: Emirates Golf Club & Jumeirah Golf Estates
NATIONAL WINTER TOURNAMENT 2015
Saturday, May 2
Taking part in the UAE National Winter Swimming Champs or the @HamiltonAquatic Development Series tomorrow? Tag us in your photos!
— HamdanSportsComplex (@HamdanSC) April 23, 2015
The Hamdan Sports Complex opens its doors to swimmers of all ages and nationality for the 2015 National Winter Tournament.
Any member of a UAE swimming club is free to enter the competition which concludes with two days of competition on Friday and Saturday.
The final races are swam over 50m at Hamdan’s world-class facilities.
Venue: Hamdan Sports Complex
AL GHARBIA WATERSPORTS FESTIVAL
Sunday, May 3
— Jannah Hotels (@JannahHotels) April 23, 2015
The seventh edition of the Al Gharbia Watersports Festival returns to Mirfa for a week-long exhibition in all things wet and sporty.
With the festival concluding on Sunday, May 3, this weekend will see some of the most exciting action on display.
Not only will there be a plethora of watersports activity in the water, with kite surfing, various forms of sailing, kayaks, beach football and volleyball all on display, but there are also opportunities to win prizes which cumulatively total Dhs4m.