By Sahr Morris Jnr.
The fourth edition of Airtel Rising Stars (ARS) tournament got underway in Freetown last Wednesday at the Siaka Steven Stadium in Freetown with a colourful opening ceremony and a comic match between Staff of Airtel and Parliamentarians.
The much talked about ARS is expected to run till July with over 150 teams participating from 149 chiefdoms in the country, with the winner representing Sierra Leone this year in the Airtel Africa U-17 championship in Gabon.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Managing Director Sudipto Chowdhury said football is a culture and the future, the reason for implementing the ARS to help find young football talents in the country.
He said: “Last year we succeeded reaching six districts, but this year it going to be a complete transformation and difference that is why the pillar for this season four is built on inclusion, massification, celebration and sustainability.”
The Airtel MD further revealed that 10 outstanding talents will be selected from the competition to undergo academy training under the watchful eye of ARS ambassador, Mohamed Kallon.
General-Secretary of the Sierra Leone Football Association, Christopher Kamara, said the Association is very much impressed with Airtel for the yearly hosting of the tournament which he said complements their (FA) effort in promoting youth football.
He said the Football Association would always welcome such developmental drive and also welcomed the planned football academy training for the youngsters after the tournament.
Minister of Sports, Paul Kamara, applauded Airtel for their initiative in developing young football talents in the country, and called for unity between SLFA and the ministry, adding that without unity the ARS tournament will not be a success in the country.
He said: “As a government, we are happy for the work of the mobile company and as Sierra Leoneans we should salute Airtel for such idea.”