Legacy of Hard Work Paying Off for Eritrean Coaching Brothers
Biniam, Filomon Afenegus have Clark, River soccer in title hunts
By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter
Published: November 12, 2013, 8:55 PM
Coaching brothers Biniam Afenegus (Clark College men), left, and Filomon Afenegus (Columbia River High School girls) have their respective teams seeking postseason championships this fall. (Photo courtesy of Forrest Burger)
It is tempting to wonder if an Afenegus family secret has helped the Clark College men's soccer team and the Columbia River High School girls soccer team enjoy sustained success.
The answer is yes.
But it's not really a unique ingredient that has Biniam Afenegus' Penguins in the NWAACC semifinals and Filomon Afenegus' Chieftains chasing a second consecutive state championship.
The ingredient, ingrained at an early age, is … work ethic.
"I remember my mom working three jobs just to support us," Filomon said. "And I remember this guy (Biniam) going on his paper routes in Spokane when it was snowy outside, just to help pay for soccer and some of those other things. Being first-generation (Americans), everybody had to work to get to where we were at."
Biniam was in the third grade and Filomon was an infant when Afenegus Desbelai and his wife, Hannah, moved their family to America from the east African country of Eritrea. The motivation was a chance for their four boys and two girls to get an education.
"A lot of (the work ethic) comes from our upbringing. Our parents sacrificed a lot to come here," Biniam said.
After about a year in Alabama, the family settled in Spokane.
Soccer, a sport Biniam played in the street as a youngster in Africa, was a way to make friends and adapt to the culture.
Later, the game played a role in their education. After excelling at North Central High School, both played midfield in college.
Biniam, 36, played four seasons of soccer at Concordia University in Portland.
"I think the thing that stood out for me was his presence on the field," Filomon said of watching his older brother play. "He was always a leader. Whenever his team
was down, he was always the one who would work that much harder."
Biniam said his younger brother's soccer IQ stood out when Filomon played.
"He was a very technical player, very smart," Biniam said. "He was a man-made player."
Filomon served as Biniam's assistant coach at Clark until taking over the Columbia River girls team last season — leading the Chieftains to the 2012 Class 3A state championship.
Biniam is in his seventh season coaching the Penguins. He teaches health and physical education at McLoughlin Middle School.
Filomon, 30, played at Western Washington. He teaches physical education and leadership at Gaiser Middle School.
Both said they knew by the time they were in high school that they wanted to teach and coach.
"I think both of us became teachers because we had great influences, teachers who not only taught us but were also our coaches," Biniam said. "I feel like when you're a coach you're also a teacher, and when you're a teacher, you're a coach. It goes hand in hand."
Hand in hand also describes the relationship between the Afenegus brothers' work ethic and their success.