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Airtel begins the search for rising football stars in Sierra Leone

Airtel begins the search for rising football stars in Sierra Leone thumbnail

The search for football talent in Sierra Leone has begun following the commencement of the 2nd Airtel Rising Stars Under-17 tournament in the Western Area region where Freetown is located on Thursday.  (Spectators turned out in large numbers to witness the opening games of ARS 2012)

This came seven weeks after former Manchester United star striker Dwight York launched this season’s youth event on behalf of the English club in a well attended colourful ceremony in Freetown.

The tournament was organised by Airtel Sierra Leone in partnership with Manchester United with local group Medium Hypes serving as the implementing agency.

The competition is for both boys and girls and will take place in five regions across the country (Freetown, Kono, Bo, Kenema and Makeni) for a period of one month in a knock out basis, with Wusum field in Makeni hosting the nationals.  About 100 teams in both categories country wide will compete in the tournament.

Hundreds of spectators turned out to witness the opening matches in a wet day at the Brima Atouga mini stadium in Freetown painted with Airtel red and white striking colours.

Twelve boys’ teams and six girls’ sides were paired up and already two teams have been shown the exit door in day one of the competition.

Flex FC goal keeper was sent the wrong way as he watches the winning penalty entering the net

In the opening fixture in the male category, Sunderland FC defeated Flex FC 4-2 on penalties after goalless draw in full time to advance to the next stage of the competition. Thanks to Sunderland impressive goal keeper Mohamed Sawanneh who saved two penalties. He was named man of the match.

Sunderland goal keeper Mohamed Sawanneh was named the man of the match after making two saves in the penalty shoot out

Kei FC got a 2-0 convincing win over Wellington United in the second match. Midfielder Mohamed Dumbuya got the opener in the 34th minute as his long range free-kick from an area in the left wing slipped off the hands of the Wellington United goalie to register the first goal of Airtel Rising Star competition 2012.

Wellington United, knocked out of ARS 2012

Striker Mohamed Bangura blasted in to the net from the box in the 49th minute after receiving a through pass to account for the second goal.

Kei FC will now face Sunderland FC in the next round. The third match of the day was between Mount Aureol Slifa and Saint Lewis Rangers which was called-off in the early stages due to heavy down pour of rain.

Kei FC eliminated Wellington United

Three other games including the two opening fixtures in the girl’s category were postponed also for the same reason.

The tournament is all about identifying and nurturing promising soccer talent from the grassroots onto a national stage.

Seasoned football administrator Alimu Bah who is one of the organizers of the tournament says the tournament will also give referees, football administrators and newly trained football coaches the opportunity to showcase their talents.

“The referees are given the opportunity to showcase their talents and the tournament is also a learning curve for football administrators across the country in administrating and organising a tournament of this nature,” said Bah.

He added: “Coaches especially those with recent coaching licenses are also given the opportunity to showcase their newly earned skills.”

The Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) Technical Director Sam Obi Metzger is quite impressed with idea of having such a tournament.

He said: “I’ like the idea of organising such an event because Sierra Leone stand to benefit a lot,” adding that “Such an event will produce talents and this is why as Technical Director i take this competition very seriously.

“I want to thank Airtel and the organisers for such a laudable venture.”

The competition in Freetown will last for four days and Kono will be next destination.

Article and photo credit – Mohamed Fajah Barrie in Freetown

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