By Sahr Morris Jr.
Sierra Leone’s vice president, Alhaji Chief Samuel Sam-Sumana and the country’s football icon, Mohamed Kallon on Friday launched the Airtel Rising Stars (ARS) Season IV trophy at a gala dinner held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Aberdeen ahead of the tournament’s kick-off.
The company’s Managing Director, Sudipto Chowdhury, said it was a pride to host such a gathering as the third largest mobile phone company in the world – whose vision he said is to become the most loved brand by 2015 – is touching millions of lives.
He disclosed that they have over 300 million subscribers globally and have succeeded in transforming the mobile phone from being an ordinary communication device to a social and economic enhancer “which now sees about 100,000 people using the Airtel Money transfer more than bank-registered account users” for the purpose of sending or receiving money.
“Football in the country and the continent at large has become a culture and inspiration to people, and ARS is nowadays the largest Pan African football tournament taking place in Africa. This year the tournament was taken to all 149 chiefdoms of the country, initially involving 1,000 teams which gradually reduced to 150 playing in the nationals,” Chowdhury said.
“The ARS is in line with the vision of President Koroma to support youth development, which is why at the end of the tournament, 20 players will be selected to join the Mohamed Kallon Football Academy where they would be provided with lodging, feeding, education and proper football development.”
Vice President Sam-Sumana said sports has no boundary and urged all to be united for the advancement of the game so as to produce more Mohamed Kallons to ensure that the latter’s legacy is preserved.
Minister of Sports Paul Kamara said those who have been groomed by Airtel are potential players for the national team, adding that the presence of the Vice President has added value to what Airtel intends to achieve.