By Sahr Morris Jnr.
Six Sierra Leonean youngsters – three boys and three girls – will on Sunday depart the country to attend this year’s Africa Airtel and Manchester United Youth Soccer Clinic slated for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on April 23-27.
The clinic, which will be conducted by coaches from Manchester United, will include 12 countries from the continent, is part of the Airtel Rising Stars, ARS, football initiative which runs every year.
And the six Sierra Leoneans: Binta Barrie, Fatamara Mansaray, Fatamata Turay, Mamadu Barrie, Hassan J. Kanu, together with organisers and staff members of Airtel Sierra Leone on Wednesday bade farewell to the deputy Minister of Sports, Ismail Al-Sankoh Conteh at his Bishop House office.
Martha Johnson of Airtel encouraged the young players to put on their best behaviour throughout the clinic and further applauded the media for a happy partnership, which she hoped will continue.
The Airtel Sierra Leone Managing Director, Sidupto Chowdhury, said the ARS was not only designed to give youngsters the opportunity to exhibit their talents, but to also send a positive message of a particular country.
Chowdhury said as part of their Cooperate Social Responsibility, they want to be part of things that are great and unique and that will have an immense impact in the lives of the people.
“Already the ARS which is unique has made an immense impact in the lives of the people. For the season four we are going to involve each and every chiefdom in the country, especially the 14 districts. I am happy to know that the ARS is in line with the president’s aim as he wants sports to reach the grassroots.”
The players were picked from the annual Airtel Rising Stars pan-African football programme held in Lagos, Nigeria, last year. The programme provides a platform for upcoming talent under the age of 17 to showcase their skills to leading scouts and coaches, and have an opportunity to further their football skills.
The deputy Sports Minister, Al-Sankoh Conteh, said the ministry is fully in support of the ARS and the company, adding that Sierra Leone is blessed with raw talent that needed to be tapped.
“As a government we will always support Airtel in their push to spot talents in the country. This we believe will also expand and broaden the scoop of scouting more talents,” the deputy minister said as he congratulated the young players and advised them to represent the country in the best disciplinary way.
The clinic, which will be held at the Chamazi Stadium, aims at nurturing the talents of Under 17 players who excelled during last year’s Inter-continental tournament held in Lagos, Nigeria, in which 12 African countries also participated.
Apart from Sierra Leone, other countries that will send participants include Uganda, DRC, Malawi, Chad, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Seychelles, Congo Brazzaville, Nigeria, Zambia and Tanzania. It will be conducted by coaches from the Manchester United Football schools and is expected to cover key areas of coaching such as passing, dribbling, and shooting and player discipline.