The annual “Airtel Rising Stars” has officially been launched at Peace Stadium in Gulu municipality.
The dignitaries took off time to get the feel of the ball before a friendly match.
After the official launch, National Youth Primary and Credo Primary played a 30-minute friendly match at Pece Stadium in Gulu town to entertain the guests.
“We are proud as Airtel that we have made a mark on Ugandan football since our start in 2011. We believe the progress has been steady and hope for more success,” said Indrajeet Airtel Uganda Marketing manager in his opening remarks.
Crested Cranes striker Juliet Nalukenge appreciated the efforts by Airtel to develop the game of football in Uganda.
“I’m a proud product of the Airtel Raising Stars and I advise all the young girls and boys to use their talents well,” Nalukenge said.
FUFA Vice President, Justus Mugisha, commended Airtel Uganda for their contribution towards the development and the growth of football.
George Labeja, Mayor Gulu Municipality said they are proud as Gulu town to have such an event and associate with a big brand like Airtel.
“There is no doubt about the talent in this region and we have the confidence many will continue to come up through this set up,” he noted.
Airtel Managing Director, Mr. V.G Somasekhar, said since the inception of this youth grassroots tournament, they have deliberately invested more and more in the development of football across Uganda.
Airtel’s sponsorships vary from youth to local leagues, cultural tournaments such Masaza Cup to the national team.
Hajji Zubair Galiwango, Vice Chairman National Council of Sports is the guest of honour, said government was proud of the commendable job Airtel has done in Uganda not only in the telecommunication world but also supporting talent in the country.
“This tournament has given raise to very many footballers like many have mentioned,” Galiwango noted.
At least 60 districts will take part in this year’s championship which is the eighth season.
Similar launches were held in Luweero, Jinja, Soroti, Lira, Masindi, Arua, Iganga, Hoima, Mbarara, Ntungamo, Masaka and Kampala concurrently.
Speaking at the Kampala launch held at Thobani House, Tony Musisi Suubi, the Airtel Regional Business Manager, said the telecom has nurtured talent in its social corporate responsibility.
He named those who have gone through rising stars to make it to the national team including; Farouk Miya, Allan Kizito, Martin Kiiza, Keziron Kizito and Muhammad Shaban.
Ngabirano Juma Kasenene who represented the Vice Chairperson of Kampala Football Association Emma Babirye said they are now interested in finding talent among ghetto children.
He said Babirye has already kicked off with the programme and was gathering the ghetto kids in Nakawa division for the same purpose.
Dirisa Kasalirwe, a member of Fufa disciplinary committee also chairman of KFA, said the team Uganda shielded at COSAFA in South Africa was all made of former Airtel Rising Stars.
He is confident the programme is doing wonders as far as nurturing talent is concerned.
Regional winners prize money will increase this year from Shs1M to Shs1.5M and runners up will get Shs1M.
The national winners will get Shs7M an increase from Shs5M while the runners up will earn Shs5M.
As Part of this year’s tournament, Airtel will handover soccer nets, and balls to 40 schools.
Last year’s winners were Kampala region [boys] and Kitara region [girls].
A total of 94 games will be played at inter district level 1 from which 8 boys and 8 girls will be chosen to advance to the finals slated for 7th September in Kampala.