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ARS 4 Zonal Championships Kick Off in Abuja, Ilorin

By Uche Peter

Lagos, Nigeria; July 1, 2014: After weeks of successful nationwide registration for participation in the season four of the annual Airtel Rising Stars U-17 male and female Tournament, the zonal championships got off to a fine start on Monday in Abuja and Ilorin with thousands of talented youngsters participating in the preliminary screening exercises.

The championships will run concurrently from June 30 to July 5 in Abuja at the Area 10 Sports Complex and Ilorin at the Kwara Football Academy Soccer Pitch. The trio of Enugu, Port Harcourt and Lagos will host the last lap between July 7 and 12 at the UNEC Sports Complex, Enugu, Number 1 Field, PH and NIS Pitch National Stadium, Surulere respectively.

The zonal championships phase is a significant stage in the ARS circle as it offers equal opportunities to all registered participants to showcase their skills under the watchful eyes of Tournament's technical advisers, leading grassroots coaches, YSFON officials and media partners.

Beginning with age and eligibility verification for all participants, proceedings at the two venues are to progress with all screened players featuring in the elimination matches. Individual participants who do not have teams will be grouped to participate in the zonal championship while teams with valid registration details are also allowed to participate as a teams.

The five zonal screening camps will produce a male and female team of 16 players each for the national championship slated for Lagos late July.

About a thousand teams comprising 16,000 players are expected to feature in this year's edition of the ARS. Not less than 50,000 active participants have been recorded in the last three seasons of the tournament.

The five cities will serve as zonal centres for a total of 20 states. Abuja will feature players from the FCT, Nassarawa, Kogi, Plateau, Niger and Kaduna States while Ilorin will have participants from Ekiti, Ondo, Osun and Kwara States. Enugu zone will have players drawn from Imo, Abia, Enugu and Anambra States. In the Port Harcourt zone, the four states expected include Rivers, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Delta. Lagos will play host to players from Ogun, Lagos, Oyo and Edo States

Also, as part of efforts to deepen the technical depth of the annaul football tournament, five Nigerian ex-internationals have been appointed as technical advisers to the participating youngsters.

The technical advisers include ex-Super Eagles players, Mutiu Adepoju, Garba Lawal and Peter Rufai, ex-Super Falcons goal tender, Anne Chiejinne and Olympic gold medalist, Chioma Ajunwa-Oparah.

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.

Airtel Rising Stars is touted as the biggest tournament in the continent and has attracted approximately 18,000 youth teams and 324,000 youth players across 17 countries. In addition to galvanising the biggest turnout during the championship stages, the program has also broken new ground by introducing girls to a pan African tournament, making it the only non-discriminatory tournament in the continent.