Pan-African soccer challenge the Airtel Africa Championships, run by Top integrated telecommunications company Bharti Airtel today, officially kicked off today in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
The tourney, which attracts Africa’s finest under-17 year-olds soccer talents, will run until August 25.
This marks the peak of regional and national championships across the 15 African nations participating.
The Airtel Africa Championships is part of the Airtel Rising Stars program, a soccer talent-search initiative focused on “identifying and nurturing soccer talent from the grassroots onto a national stage.”
Hailed as the continent’s largest youth soccer tournament, it attracts nearly 18,000 youth teams and 342,000 players from the countries.
Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga officially opened the championship today accompanied by tournament’s sponsors – led by Manoj Kohli, the CEO (International) & Joint MD, Bharti Airtel.
Others present during the launch included officials from Manchester United and Arsenal including Mr. Jonathan Rigby, Marketing Director, Manchester United and Angus Kinnear, Marketing Director, Arsenal Football Club.
The two European clubs have territorial partnership agreements with Airtel that bestow several rights to the cellular network operator the telecommunications partner in the selected markets. Among the rights includes the technical expertise provided by the two clubs at the soccer clinics.
This year’s championship will mark the launching of two Airtel Rising Soccer Clinics run by soccer coaches from the Manchester United and Arsenal Soccer Schools. Two of the club’s legends Peter Schmeichel and Ray Parlour will attend the two clinics.
Previously reserved for boys, the program has now welcomed females to contest in the challenge. Kenyan girls’ team hammered Malawian team 11-0 in the opening fixtures yesterday. In the Boy’s Category, Malawi thrashed Kenya 5-1 to lead Group B. Madagascar and Ghana are also the group.
The countries scheduled to participate include Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Niger, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Gabon, and Chad.
Headquartered in New Delhi, India, Bharti Airtel Limited operates in 20 countries across Africa and Asia. The company ranks among the world’s top 5 mobile service providers in terms of subscribers, with 257 million customers across its operations as of June 2012.
The company offers 2G, 3G and 4G services, fixed line, high speed broadband through DSL, IPTV, DTH, enterprise services including national and international long distance services to carriers.