It was fun and exciting moments for the kid footballers who took part in the Airtel Rising Stars (ARS 3) at the main bowl of the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan as the participants took time to relive their experiences.
Kafayat Shittu, from Osun state described the talent hunt programme also as a forum for social interaction.
“This is my second time I had featured in ARS talent hunt and I have gained a lot.
This is quite a rewarding experience. I was excited by every moment here and this is actually more than a football event. Airtel has provided a forum for social interaction because I have been able to make new friends here through this programme.
The programme is improving because it was quite different from the first edition I attended in 2011. So, it enables us to socialise and I hope that I will be selected among the 16 players who will move to Lagos for the final stage,” Kafayat, a student of Ataoja School of Science, Osogbo said.
Haruna Abutu, a player from Ekiti State, said it was a wonderful experience for him to partake in the ARS talent hunt.
“This is my first time and I’m happy to be here. This is the first time I had played in one of the federal stadia in the country. We got to know about this programme through our Games Mistress and I was lucky to be selected.
I am satisfied with my performance here which I believe would be good enough for me to be among the team to represent the zone in Lagos,” said Abutu who hails from Dekina in Kogi State.
For Ajala Kehinde Mercy, the joy of her participation in ARS programme would remain fresh in her memory.
“After missing the last two editions, I am happy to have featured in ARS at last. I was able to prove myself during our match and I have grown in confidence now.
The confidence to face the crowd has also increased. Many of us had never played at this level before and with my performance, I’m confident that I will make the team to Lagos. This kind of programme provides us the opportunity to conquer fears and play with confidence and I commend Airtel for this initiative.
“In fact, I’m fulfilled taking photographs with the Airtel jersey. I would also love to see a situation where all participants at the zonal level will always go home with Airtel-branded souvenirs such as pens, t-shirts, fez caps and so on,” Mercy declared.
For Raphael Onwuegbuzie from Edo State, the ARS programme confirmed the maxim that travelling is part of education.
“Coming to Ibadan alone gave me emotional satisfaction and I will always thank Airtel for giving us this opportunity to play football beyond our immediate environment. This is the first time I had played football outside Edo State and I enjoy every bit of my stay here.
We came in late to Ibadan but the organisers still allowed us to play so as to get the chance of being selected; one remarkable thing about ARS is that emphasis is not placed on winning but getting the best 16 out of all the participants to go for the final stage in Lagos.
Playing in ARS is a new thing in my life and I’m happy about it,” said the teenage midfielder from the Star Football Academy, Benin City.
His teammate, Faithful Eruaga said that getting a friend through the competition was the high point of his participation.
“I got a friend from Ekiti State, Kola. We played together in the same side and we became friends and this is a thing of joy to me. This stadium is big and I’m happy coming here to play for the first time. I feel challenged seeing my peers play in such a big stadium as this and I appreciate ARS for making this possible,” said Eruaga.