By Sahr Morris Jnr.
As the teams gear-up for the commencement of the Airtel Rising Stars (ARS) Season IV, the leading mobile telecom company in the country has introduced an innovative health run which attracted over 200 male and female youngsters, including ex-national team players and football officials.
The inaugural event was staged on Sunday and saw Airtel staff, referees, ex-players as well as football administrators run from the National Stadium’s main entrance at Syke Street through Congo Cross, Wilkinson Road, Lumley Round-About, Beach Road and finished at the Aberdeen Beach just few meters to the Family Kingdom complex.
It was Ferry FC’s youngster, Amadu Bah, who won the health run marathon. Bah got-off to a flying start and maintained his lead to beat-off competition from FC Kallon Junior captain, Musa Kallon – who finished in second place.
FC Pizzo’s Shamsu Abu finished behind Kallon in third as the trio received certificates and expensive mobile phones from Airtel. Also, the first 50 finishers were all decorated with Airtel Rising Stars certificates.
Deputy Minister of Sports, Ishmael Al-Sankoh Conteh, in his address, applauded the mobile outfit for such an innovation ahead of the proper commencement of the ARS Season IV tournament.
He said the idea of tapping young talents through the ARS will continue to have an impact on Sierra Leone football as he pledged his ministry’s continued support towards the tournament and youth football in the country.
He said: “The health run is a great idea which will help keep the players fit more especially when they are all preparing for the tournament. As a ministry we will continue to embrace youth football activities in the country.”
ARS Ambassador, who is former Leone Stars captain Mohamed Kallon, encouraged the boys to embrace the exercise and advised them to continue engaging in self training and exercises to always be fit.
He said: “As a player if you must succeed you have to keep working hard.”
Airtel Managing Director, Sudipto Chowdhury, said they were pleased to organize such activities as this year they are determined for the ARS to be much bigger than previous ones held.
He said the staging of the ARS health run was also to give everybody the chance to feel and have a taste of the tournament.
“Being part of this health run is not only about ARS tournament but giving everybody the taste and passion behind the ARS. We at Airtel want everyone to be part of the tournament and this is one way we can get people together. I am happy to be part of this because at Airtel we want the best for all Sierra Leoneans,” the Airtel MD said.
Mr. Chowdhury furthered that the Pan-African football tournament, which spans across 17 Airtel markets across the continent, is designed to provide a platform for upcoming soccer talents under the age of 17, to showcase their skills to leading scouts and coaches and also provide them the opportunity to further their football skills. He added that the initiative targets boys and girls across the country and provides a structured platform for scouts, coaches, football authorities and other partners to tap into a vast pool of upcoming talents.
“The regional kick-off will be immediately after the formal opening on Wednesday 25th June in all regions and 150 teams who have qualified will participate,” he disclosed.
Referees coordinator, Mohamed Freeman, who was part of the run, pledged better officiating throughout the tournament. He said the referees will do their best in seeing this year’s tournament becomes the best of the previous ones.
The health run was climaxed with the presentation of certificates to the first fifty (50) participants. A Samsung Galaxy x4 phone was presented to Amadu Barrie who took first position, and a Nokia X phone to Musa Kallon who finished second. Third place Samson Abu was presented with a Samsung X2-22 phone.
Similar prizes were presented to Hawanatu Conteh, Isata Conteh and Theresa Rose for bagging first, second and third positions respectively in the female category.
The prizes and certificates were presented by Sierra Leone’s football legend, Mohamed Kallon.