Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ethiopian Refugee Birhanu Taye status no obstacle for new Kiwi youngster

The dream of becoming a professional footballer remains exactly that for most, and for a refugee transplanted from Sudan to New Zealand it seems even further from reach than normal.
Birhanu Taye’s struggle against the odds is set to be rewarded with the youngster securing a spot in the senior youth programme at SC Braga in Portugal.

Taye’s path to Portugal reads like a fiction novel.

As a ten-year-old he was cleaning shoes in Sudan to earn enough money to feed himself and his younger sister.

Originally from Ethiopia, Taye lost his mother early and his father worked away from home so he and his sister lived with relatives.
Every day was a struggle and there was no time for school. But like many young boys around the World his release was football and the dream of one day making it big.

Fast-forward a couple of years and Taye’s fortune changed as he was transported to Wellington, New Zealand staying with his sister who had already settled here, before being taken in by Patricia Dimairho.

Dimhairho had moved to New Zealand from Zimbabwe to build a better life for herself and her children. Despite the financial strain it would place on her family Dimhairho welcomed Taye as one of her own and he embraced life in this new environment.

One benefit of his new life was the numerous grass parks where he could continue to play football.

Before long Taye was noticed by local coach Jamie Milne who saw a promising young player who he wasted no time in recruiting for his Island Bay United AFC youth team.

“Birhanu was having a kick around down at our club fields – he was just 12, maybe 13 years old, and already he stood out amongst boys four or five years older than him,” Milne says.

“He had balance and vision ahead of his years and was tenacious in the tackle. He was comfortable passing off both feet.”

This kicked off a pathway of football development the young refugee had only ever dreamed of as he progressed through the different levels of the local game from Island Bay to Western Suburbs and eventually Team Wellington, with full support from his high school St Pats Town where he made the first XI early on.

It was then that he caught the attention of Giovani Fernandes, Director of Football at Asia Pacific Football Academy an OFC partner.

“Birhanu had a raw athletic talent and a commitment that stood out,” Giovani remembers.

In 2011 Taye was awarded a full scholarship to APFA, making the move to Christchurch where he trained daily and played for local club FC Twenty 11 while also committing himself to getting the best grades possible at Lincoln High School.

One thing continued to hold the youngster back, his refugee status.

That obstacle was broken down with the help of New Zealand Football, APFA staff along with Patricia Dimairho, who organised for the aspiring footballer to receive a New Zealand passport, and at 18 years old the World became his oyster.

In June 2013 APFA sent Taye to Portugal to trial at SC Braga and against some stiff competition managed to impress enough to be recruited into the club’s senior youth programme.

The Birhanu Taye story may yet have more dramatic chapters to tell as his Portuguese adventure unfolds before an Ethiopian-born Kiwi youngster who dares to dream.