Two girls, 10 boys: 12 stars, 12 dreams

Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Another batch of Sri Lanka’s best football talent identified
  • 12 young soccer enthusiasts win a chance of a lifetime
  • Winners will visit Manchester United Soccer school shortly
  • 2 female footballers to go to Manchester – A first from Airtel Globally
Bharti Airtel yesterday today announced the conclusion of the Airtel Rising Stars – Season 2 program at a colourful awards ceremony held at the Sinhalese Sports Club. The event saw the 12 best young footballers in the country being selected by independent coaches from Manchester United to visit Old Trafford in England for an opportunity to meet and interact with the Manchester United football team. The highlight of the event was the fact that two female football players found a place among the final 12. This result is even more significant for Sri Lanka, as it is the first time in the world that female players have been selected from among the Airtel Rising Stars program held globally. Launched in July 2013, this one-of-its-kind island-wide hunt for young and talented football players is a rigorous scouting program which covered 14 centres across Sri Lanka and chose the 48 best footballers from around the country for the second stage in Colombo. Manchester United Academy Coaches Adam Hilton, Kevin O’Connoel, David Chapman and Sonola Lami hosted an intensive football camp and selected the 12 best players who now have the chance of a lifetime to visit the home of Manchester United. The 12 Airtel Rising Stars for 2014 as selected by the Manchester United coaches were Chamara De Silva, A.G.I. Udara, Suranga Dinushan, D.S.A. Janith Piumal, M. Riskhan, Mohammed Nifaz, Ashen Jeewantha, Lakmal Fernando, Sanjula Thilan, Dilshan Tharindu, K.P.S. Perera and Sakura Sewandi. “As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, this program is a sheer example of our commitment in developing local talent to international standards, thus contributing actively towards the positive development of youth in Sri Lanka. I am proud to state that we received over 10,000 applications. It was highly motivating for us to see the passion and excitement of these young kids. Not just boys, but talented girls as well. Their dedication to the sport was remarkable and the level of talent displayed was of a standard we never thought existed in Sri Lanka,” said Suren Goonewardene, CEO/MD of Airtel Lanka. Under the program selections were held in Jaffna, Colombo, Mannar, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Badulla, Kurunegala, Hatton, Kandy, Kalutara, Matara, Negombo, Kilinochchi and Kalmunai. The best 48 players between the ages of 15-19 were selected after a gruelling session of try outs in the 14 centres. The 48 shortlisted players were brought to Colombo for an intensive training workshop with the Manchester United coaches which also included academic sessions on discipline, training, nutrition, practice methods as well as drills and six a side matches, ending with a full 11 a side match. The 12 selected players will leave for Old Trafford in October 2014 for two weeks of training at the Manchester United Soccer School and will also have the chance to see Manchester United greats like Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Juan Mata and the likes. Ranjith Rodrigo, President, Football Federation of Sri Lanka said: “In our young days, the thought of visiting a prestigious club such as Manchester United was beyond even a dream. Our only goal was to be the best player in Sri Lanka. But now you youngsters have an opportunity to go beyond that and represent Sri Lanka on an international platform and I strongly urge you to grab hold of this fantastic opportunity. I must also thank Airtel Lanka for helping these kids fulfil a dream. This will be a trendsetter for all young and budding footballers and I am sure that they will look forward to yet another Airtel Rising Stars program next year.” The Airtel Rising Stars progam kick started in July with the endorsement of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and with support from MP Namal Rajapaksa and the Tharunyata Hetak organisation as well as the Football Federation of Sri Lanka.