Rivers, Akwa Ibom for ARS Port Harcourt Zonal Championship Final

By Uche Peter
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Port Harcourt, Nigeria; July 11, 2014: Rivers Team A and Akwa Ibom yesterday (Friday) booked their final places in the female category of the ongoing Airtel Rising Stars (ARS) U-17 Football Tournament at the Port Harcourt zone of the competition.

The match which was played at the popular Sharks Stadium was witnessed by a capacity crowd of football fans from the host city and its environs.

Rivers Team A defeated hard-fighting Bayelsa State female team by 1-0 within regulation time to secure their final ticket, while Akwa Ibom defeated Cross River by 4-1 on penalties after the match had ended 0-0 apiece to also book their final ticket.

With the aforementioned victories, Rivers Team A will battle Akwa Ibom in the final slated for today (Saturday) at the same venue.

Before getting to the semi-finals of the female category of the competition, Rivers Team A played out a pulsating 0-0 draw with Imo female team before defeating Cross River by 2-0 to top Group A with 4 points.

Cross River however placed second in Group A with 2 points after beating Imo by 1-0 and going down 0-2 to Rivers Team A.

In Group B, Akwa Ibom played a 0-0 draw with Bayelsa and went further to defeat Rivers Team B 1-0 to top the group with 4 points, while Bayelsa placed second in the group with 2 points after registering 0-0 draws each against Akwa Ibom and Rivers Team B respectively.

The zonal championship 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.

Ex-Nigerian International and Olympic gold medallist, Chioma Ajunwa-Oparah is serving as the Technical Adviser to the Port Harcourtzonal team which features teams from Delta, Rivers, Abia, AkwaIbom, Bayelsa and Cross Rivers States.

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 ARS U-17 tournament, a pan-African initiative of Airtel Africa, is designed to provide support for the development of football talents across Nigeria. It aims at discovering talented male and female students of secondary school age and providing them with platform to gain football skills and develop into professional footballers.

The tournament enjoys the 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).