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Airtel Nigeria has announced the commencement of the 4th edition of Airtel Rising Stars (ARS) U-17 male and female tournament, a grass-root football talent search programme aimed at identifying and nurturing budding soccer talent from the grassroots onto a national stage.

This announcement is coming barely ten months after a successful hosting of the 3rd edition of the ARS, an Africa-wide grassroots tournament that underscores the company’s avowed commitment to creating excitement for sports lovers as well as providing empowerment opportunities for Nigerian youth.

Speaking at an event to announce the commencement of ARS 4 in Lagos, Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director of Airtel Nigeria, Segun Ogunsanya, noted that the soccer initiative is the company’s contribution to sports development and youth empowerment in Nigeria.

Ogunsanya who was in the company of ex Super Eagles and Falcons Stars including Peter Rufai, Ann Chiejine, Chioma Ajunwa, Garba Lawal and Mutiu Adepoju said football in Nigeria elicits passion, creates fun and engenders unity.

“Airtel wants to be an integral part of local communities and our association with football has strong elements of creating positive change and engagement. ARS is our contribution to building and sustaining a rich pool of football talents for the Super Eagles and Falcons,” he said.

While highlighting the success of the Airtel Rising Starts intervention, the Airtel CEO also noted that the initiative has provided strong platforms for empowering exceptionally talented Nigerians.

”It is on record that the Airtel Rising Stars Football programme has produced exceptional talents some of whom are: Musa Mohammed Shehu- Captain Golden Eaglets U17- (ARS 2011); Zahradden Bello- U17- ARS (2012); AL Hassan Ibrahim Abdullahi- U17- ARS (2011); Muri Lawal- Sunshine Stars FC Akure- ARS (2011) and Josephine Mathias- Falconets, Pelican Stars FC Calabar- ARS (2011),” he said.

According to Ogunsanya, the fourth edition of the Airtel Rising Stars programme will be played in different regions across the country, culminating in the National Finals, a three-day soccer fiesta. Thereafter, the successful male and female teams will travel to Gabon to compete for continental glory in Africa’s biggest youth football tournament with participation from 17 countries.

With over 50,000 active participants over the last 3 seasons, ARS enjoys the endorsement and support of football bodies such as Lagos State Football Association (LSFA), Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON), Arsenal Football Club and Nigeria School Sports Federation (NSSF). This year, Airtel is partnering ex super eagles and falcons stars to offer technical support and advisory services to the youngsters.

Beginning with Open Screening Camps in five locations, where the participants will be screened for age compliance and given the opportunity to showcase their talents, the selected male and female teams in each camp will proceed to Lagos to challenge for honors at the National Finals.

The Airtel Rising Stars U-17 Tourney, a unique pan African initiative of Airtel Africa, is designed to provide support for the development of football talents across Nigeria. It aims at discovering talented students (male and female) of secondary school age and providing them the opportunity to gain football skills and develop into renowned stars.

The Airtel Rising Stars registration will kick-off from today, June 4th, 2014 to Friday, June 27th, 2014 and is expected to draw thousands of participants across the country. The registration forms will be available at Airtel Express shops nationwide.

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