Former Black Stars coach Emmanuel Kwasi Afranie has described Airtel Rising Stars as the most important football competition in Ghana after attending the first Zonal competition in Ho over the weekend.
Four boys and three girls teams representing Greater Accra, Eastern and Volta Region converged on the Volta capital of Ho over a two day period to compete for honours.
The biggest prize at stake however was getting a place on the Airtel Rising Stars team which will represent the zone at the national finals in Sunyani in July.
Greater Accra proved too strong for Volta Region who they beat in both the boy’s finals competition and the Girls gold medal match. Eastern Region finished bottom of the pile in both categories.
Coach Nana Akwasi Afranie who won Ghana’s first World Under 17 trophy in 1991 and guided the Black Satellites to a runners-up place at the World Youth Championship in 2001 observed that Ghana’s best hope for her football future lay with Airtel Rising Stars.
“This country is full of talent. Look at the players we have found here. The standard of the competition has been healthy and remember this is only the second screening exercise. After here, we will meet all the zonal champions in Sunyani where we will select the national team. And then they will move to camp. After one week of camping, we will select the final Airtel Rising Stars team which will represent the country at the Airtel Rising Stars African championship to be held in Gabon in August. I can say without fear or favour that some of the players we have seen here today will make it into the national team of Ghana.” Coach Afranie said.
Though Eastern Region performed poorly, several of their young players were picked by the technical committee of the Ghana Football Association’s juvenile committee. However, the lion’s share of the Airtel Rising Stars Zonal team of twenty-two boys and fourteen Girls was taken up by Accra.
The Ho edition of the Airtel Rising Stars zonal games was full of fun as Hip-life artist and dance maestro Gasmilla together with the official Airtel Rising Stars mascot entertained both players and spectators with Azonto lectures.
Volta Regional Minister Helen Ntosu spoke highly of Airtel’s Initiative to touch lives and change destinies of Ghana’s future football talent.
“We in the Volta Region are happy to host you. We appreciate the work you are doing with these talented players. We pray for their successes because the future of this country is in their hands” Madam Ntosu’s representative said.
The Chairman of the Volta Regional Football Association, Francis Dogbatse tasked the zonal team to ensure that they make the national team through hard work.
“Thanks to Airtel Rising Stars, you have an opportunity to shine for the world to see. You need to work extremely hard so you can achieve your dreams. You must not let this opportunity slip by you” Dogbatse concluded.
The next edition of the Airtel Rising Stars zonal games will be held in Tamale from June 14to 15.
The best regional Boys and Girls team in Upper East, Upper West and the Northern Region will play their games in Tamale.
Before the weekend however, a scouting exercise aimed to identify talent outside the regional teams will be held at the Tamale Sports stadium on Thursday 12th and 13th June.