Airtel and Manchester United Soccer School turn dreams into reality

Thursday, 6 September 2012 00:33 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shanuka Tissera

Since January 2012, Airtel launched their latest corporate social responsibility programme and has proven to be a massive success. Over 10,000 applicants initially applied to take part in the Manchester United Soccer School challenge. Out of the 10,000 applicants, only 12 will be selected to go to Old Trafford and train at the Manchester United official grounds for seven days.

Boys and girls from all over the island took part in the initial selection stage, where top football coaches held test sessions to narrow down the field. Since Monday the third, 48 kids took part in a final training session where 6x40 minute matches will determine who gets to turn their dream into a reality. Of the three professional coaches from Manchester United FC, two have been sent from UK and one coach is based in India for talent scouting purposes.

The children range from ages 16 and upwards and come from all corners of the island. The 48 kids were not only told secret training techniques to better themselves, but were also given lectures on healthy eating, lifestyles and challenges. This competition sponsored by Airtel as a CSR project and will take place in India and Bangladesh also. 12 Finalists from Sri Lanka will meet the 12 finalists from both India and Bangladesh and will head off to train at Carrington training ground.

After speaking with the Head Coach and specialist coaches from Manchester United, a very high level of participation and determination was permeated through the applicants. “The kids have taken to this challenge very seriously. They have a good attitude and are willing to work very hard. We would like to afford this opportunity to the 12 kids who really deserve it and have the all-round needed package.”

Airtel Head Brand and Communication Charith de Chickera shared how this CSR project is one that is going to become an annual event and will now give children a real hope to get out into the world. “Some of the kids who have made it to the final stage do not even go to school. Some work during the day and in the evenings spend their time playing football. Opportunities like this do not come around so often, so those that are hungry enough have gone out there and proven that they deserve a seat at the table.”

A note of thanks was offered to the Football Federation; Rumy Pakeerali, Chandrasiri and Mahinda Pala are three A-list coaches who have also given their time to ensure that only the best will be selected. The Airtel brand is one that looks to permeate success and hard work and have really gone out of their way to help the youth of Sri Lanka. It is not yet known who will be chosen, the next Dwight Yorke or Van Nistelrooy from Sri Lanka could be knocking at the door.

Umar Munawwar, Kannttota

What does this mean to you? This is a rare opportunity and I am very thankful for Airtel and Manchester United for giving their time and resources to us to teach us the tricks of the trade. The training has been of international standards and I have not had any training like this ever before. Even if I do not get chosen, I will start training for next year and be fully prepared.

Favourite Player – Christiano Ronaldo

W.S.D. Sujan Perera, Kaluthara

Under 19 National Goalkeeper.

What does this mean to you? As expected, this is the dream of mine to go to Manchester United, I know it is the same dream as the other 47 candidates but I have put my heart and soul in trying to make the cut. The training and codes taught by the coaches has been precious and we are all just so grateful that the chance has come to town.

Favourite Player: Iker Casillas

A.D. Dulip Madushanka, Galle

What does this mean to you?  I have been taught a new way to do things. I have played with boys elder to me and that is a challenge I enjoy. Every player who has made it to the final 48 is worthy to go to Old Trafford but this is my dream and I want it to become a reality. We have all given our best and I hope that I get selected. The techniques given by the coaches will really help me to further strengthen my skills and belief in myself.

Favourite Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

– Pix by D. Lasantha Wijesinghe