For 20 years, Ethiopia and Eritrea stood in a bloody conflict that erupted around the border town of Badme in 1998. Around 100,000 people were killed, and numerous Ethiopians and Eritreans fled their countries. In the two decades of conflict, Eritrea’s society has shrivelled into a poverty-stricken dictatorship, becoming one of the twelve countries with the lowest possible rating for both political rights and civil liberties. The majority of “able-bodied” adult Eritreans are on “indefinite, compulsory” active national service that will oftentimes extend over decades, amounting to what the UN refers to as mass enslavement. Thus, in a country of 4.5 million people, as many as five thousand people flee Eritrea every month, many of them to Europe.
A few of these young Eritreans arrived in Berlin, where they joined the football team Ze Berlin. The team was founded explicitly to accommodate both Ethiopian and Eritrean players who, despite the longstanding conflict between their home countries, train together three times a week.