After three weeks of scintillating football at the inter-state championship of the on-going Airtel Rising Stars National U-17 Tournament finally came to an end 12 teams emerge as the qualifying matches were concluded at the Lagos and Ibadan zonal centers on Friday.
The Lagos and Ibadan zonal qualifiers were decided at the Legacy Pitch of the National Stadium, Surulere and the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan respectively.
At the Lagos zonal championship, a total of 64 matches were played by 76 teams consisting of players from academies and secondary schools in Lagos and Ogun States.
Individual awards went to Ruth Nevo and Tajudeen Ikeoluwa, both of whom emerged Championship Best Goal Keepers in the Male and Female categories respectively. Olabiyi Folajomi won the Most Valuable Player Award in the female category while Falomo Gbenga was adjudged the Most Valuable Player in the male category.
Olabiyi Folajomi also won the Highest Goal Scorer Award female category with six goals while Alfa Felix clinched the Golden Boot Award in the female category with two goals and three assists with no caution.
The zonal or inter-state championships have lived up to expectation with high display of skills, football artistry and unearthing of raw talents.
Commenting on this recently, the Enugu State FA Chairman, Offor Okenwa, who witnessed proceedings at the Enugu leg of the zonal championship said the innovation put up by Airtel was commendable because of its drive to help develop the game of football through the discovery of budding talents from the grassroots.
“This is commendable because it will not only help to take the youths out of the streets by as well create a map of better football developments in the country. I want to commend the organisers of this event for a job well done,” he said.
Following the successful completion of the inter-state championships in designated centres across the nation, 12 male and female teams from Kaduna, Abuja, Ibadan, Enugu, Lagos and Port Harcourt will now converge for the National Championship billed to hold from August 23 to 25 at the Agege Township Stadium.
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.
The competition is aimed at discovering talented students (male and female) of secondary school age and providing them the opportunity to polish their football skills and develop into soccer stars.
As part of the tournament, top teams from 17 African countries including Nigeria will compete against one another to determine the ARS African Champion, scheduled for Nigeria in September.
This will be followed by a week-long football clinic with Arsenal FC of England for most outstanding male and female players discovered during the national championship.