Lagos – It was double victory for the Port Harcourt contingent to the National Championship of the on-going season three of the Airtel Rising Stars National U-17 Tournament as their male and female teams emerged national champions in their respective categories.
The South teams defeated their counterparts from Ibadan in the final matches played at the Agege Township Stadium, Lagos on Sunday.
In the final female match decided earlier, defending champion, Port Harcourt emerged 2-1 victorious over their opponents from Ibadan to retain the trophy for the third season. Action had started with more play concentrated in the mid-field as the two teams struggled to coordinate play.
Port Harcourt however recorded the first corner of the match and a goal mouth scramble in the 9th minute, but nothing came out of both. Incursions into the Ibadan vital area were becoming too many for comfort, and they paid for this when Edore Agbude beat goal keeper Abubakar Ajimoh in the 20th minute to put team Port Harcourt ahead.
The goal did spur on the South team as they began the second half pressing further to increase the tally, and they almost did so in the 23rd minute but for the timely intervention of goal keeper Ajimoh.
They were however, pegged back when Joy Falegon popped up to nod home a cross and secured the much needed equalizer.
As the match wore on, it appeared the winner might be decided via penalty kicks until the dying seconds of the last minute when John Imeh Obong drove home a long range effort that beat out-positioned goal keeper Abubakar Ajimoh.
In the male final match, the Port Harcourt team took off from where their female counterparts left off as they reclaimed the trophy they last won two seasons ago at Campos Square.
Olu Gabriel, who has been one of the revelations of the Championship, put his team ahead in the first half of the highly technical match.
The second half began with the Oluyole boys appearing to have found the missing link in their play. They showed more determination obviously in a bid to cancel out the lone goal disadvantage. Their efforts could not pay despite repeated attempts to draw level with team Port Harcourt.
In the third place matches played earlier, Kaduna defeated FCT Queens 5-4 to retain the trophy they won last season in the female category while team Lagos won their first ever ARS medal 5-3 against their Kaduna counterparts.
12 male and female teams totalling 192 players drawn from six zones across the nation featured in the three-day Championship which began on Friday.
Tournament partners, Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON) and the Nigeria Football Coaches Association (NFCA) form an independent team of assessors including grassroots coaches to oversee technical concerns during the championship.
The Airtel Rising Stars U-17 Tourney, in its third year running, is a pan African initiative of Airtel Africa, designed to provide support for the development of football talents across African markets.