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Niger Retain ARS U-17 Africa Trophy

By Uche Peter

Defending Champions, Niger valiantly fought hard to retain the Airtel Rising Stars U-17 Africa Championship trophy in the boy's category, which they won in the maiden edition last year.

The Nigeriens triumphed 7-6 in a penalty shoot-out after a hard fought game against Zambia in the final of the Airtel Rising Stars Africa Championship held at the Agege Township Stadium in Lagos, Nigeria.

At regulation time, both teams had a goal each but the Nigeriens looked more resolute in front of their teeming supporters who came from across Lagos. Their efforts eventually paid off during the penalty shoot-out. The Zambian lost their last kick while the Nigeriens capitalised on that blunder to make the best of their last kick.

Since the beginning of the competition, the Nigeriens had gone about their business with such effectiveness and focus as they despatched teams one after the other. They won all their group matches scoring a total of 12 goals and conceded just three in six matches. A total of 58 matches were played during the week-long Championship

In the female category, Tanzania despatched Kenya with just a lone goal to clinch the coveted trophy. A lone strike from Donisia Daniel was all they needed to end the country's twenty-year trophy draught in any international competition.

The Tanzanians came into the competition as underdogs in a group that had Sierra Leone, Malawi and Uganda. They however shocked book makers in the group opener when they defeated Sierra Leone 2-1. That was their only victory at the group stage as they lost to Uganda 0-1 and drew with Malawi 1-1.

They won 4-2 via penalties against the DRC in their quarter-final match at the NIS Sports field before running riot against Uganda in the semi-finals with an 8-1 victory.

Describing her country's exploits at the ARS Championship, Tanzania's female Coach, Abel Mtweve was ecstatic: 'It is amazing. We haven't qualified from the group stages for the finals of any competition for 20 years. This young generation of footballers are just about 14, 15 years of age. So, expect more from us in future'

The Airtel Rising Stars U-17 Africa Championship season two was hosted by Nigeria in the city of Lagos across four match centres which included Agege Township Stadium, Legacy Pitch, National Institute for Sports Playing Field and the Main bowl of the National Stadium, Surulere.

It began with a gala night on Sunday in honour of the participating countries and tournament officials, followed by an opening ceremony and tournament opening group matches at the Agege Township Stadium, Agege.

Airtel Rising Stars Africa Football Championship, in its second season, is Africa's biggest Under-17 grassroots tournament and the only one with strong consideration for gender equality with the incorporation of the Girls Category.

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Emeka Oparah | Director, Corporate Communications & CSR | Airtel Africa | M : (+234) 802 222 1120 |O : (+234) 802 192 1120|E : [email protected] |W: | Airtel HQ, Plot L2, Foreshores Estate, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria