Posted by News Express | 15 September 2013 | 5,623 times
All is now set for Africa’s biggest Under-17 football tournament – the Airtel Rising Stars (ARS) U-17 Championship – holding in Lagos from tomorrow and over the next one week.
Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre will come alive as the 16 teams that emerged champions during the qualifying series held across Africa trade tackles and display the scintillating football artistry for which the continent is known.
The city is hosting teams from Niger, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Congo DRC, Madagascar and Gabon in this year’s ARS African championship scheduled hold from September 16 to 23 at the Agege Township Stadium, Agege, Onikan Stadium, National Institute of Sports (NIS) Pitch and the Legacy Pitch both in the National Stadium, Surulere. The opening and closing ceremonies as well as the final matches for both categories have been scheduled to take place at Agege Township Stadium, while other group matches will be played at the three other centres.
A welcome dinner in honour of the participating teams and officials as well as draws for the match fixtures is on-going at the 10 Degree Event Centre, Billings Way, Alausa/Oregun, Ikeja.
Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi and his counterpart in the Women Affairs Ministry, Hajia Zainab Maina, will tomorrow morning lead the Federal Government delegation to declare the competition open.
Several international diplomats are expected to grace the event. Also expected is Arsenal legend and former France international, Robert Emmanuel Pires, who is part of the Club’s technical and business staff to the ARS African Championship; he is expected to enliven the atmosphere at the finals of the Airtel Under-17 Championship and stand as an inspiration to the youngsters vying for laurels in the final games.
The metropolitan city of Lagos is Nigeria’s most populous city with great followership of the round-leather game; it has a sports loving Governor who has invested much in developing sports infrastructure. The ARS African championship is expected to attract millions of crowds to all the various centres in the state.
The Lagos State Government under the sports-loving Governor Babatude Fashola has assured of its support and commitment to the championship. Speaking Monday during a visit by Airtel officials to his office at the Teslim Balogun Sporting Complex, Surulere, Lagos, the Lagos State Commissioner of Sports, Barrister Wahid Enitan-Oshodi, assured of the state’s commitment to the initiative, saying top officials of the government are ready to play host to the rest of Africa.
“The Airtel Rising Stars African Championship is an international event and we have committed to it. Airtel is an international brand, a good corporate citizen with strong governance structure and we will be there to provide the needed support for the international event,” he said.
Niger Republic holds the 2012 championship title for the male category, while Ghana is the defending champion in the female category.
Port Harcourt from the South Region will be flying the flag of Nigeria in both categories after it emerged victorious over other teams at the National Finals concluded a few weeks back. They are coached by Joseph ‘Zico’ Egbu.
The Airtel Rising Stars U-17 soccer tournament is a unique pan-African initiative of Airtel Africa designed to create a pool of talents to feed the national football teams of African countries.
•Photo: Members of the ARS Republic of Niger contingent their upon arrival for the tournament, of which they are the defending champions in the male category.
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