(Photo: Udi Zitiat)

(Photo: Udi Zitiat)

By Allon Sinai - February 21, 2018

Originally appeared here in the Jerusalem Post

With his 32nd birthday being celebrated only six days ago, Hapoel Ashkelon’s Messay Dego is the youngest coach in Israeli soccer’s Premier League.

He also holds another distinction, one that in a perfect world would go unnoticed. In our flawed reality though, it would be naïve to ignore the fact that Dego became the first Ethiopian-Israeli coach to guide a team in the top flight this past Sunday.

Not only is that an overdue and noteworthy accomplishment, but also one that has the potential of making a real impact on people’s lives.

Dego is a pioneer and, despite only being at the beginning of his coaching journey, is already an inspiration to so many who share his heritage and skin color, and have had to overcome similar stereotypes.

It wasn’t that long ago that Dego was pulling 10-hour shifts as a cleaning inspector for the Bat Yam Municipality to allow himself to work as a coach at Hapoel Tel Aviv’s youth department later in the day.

Dego, who was born in Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa and moved to Israel with his family in 1990, would get up at the crack of dawn to ensure the city’s schools were clean ahead of the arrival of the pupils. He worked at the job for two years, with his playing career coming to an end at the age of 27 due to injuries. Read More