By Chancy Namadzunda
Airtel Africa celebrated the emergence of the talented young soccer star – Priscilla Okyere – who played a critical role in Ghana’s success at the just concluded FIFA under-17 Women’s World Cup held in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Accoeding to the company’s press release, Priscilla who was a participant at the Airtel’s soccer talent initiative, the Airtel Rising Stars, captained the Ghanaian under 17 women’s national team and also scored the lone goal that enabled the team nicknamed the Black Maidens to scoop the bronze medal in the third place win over red-hot favorites Germany.
Priscilla is ecstatic to be the first female captain to be decorated with a medal at the U-17 women’s world cup. Winning bronze is Ghana’s best-ever finish at a FIFA women’s competition and the furthest by any African side at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Priscilla was one of the twenty talented aspiring stars that Airtel sponsored for a high performance soccer clinic at Sunningdale, Cape Town, South Africa in October 2011. She was later named the best female player in the second edition of the Ghanaian Airtel Rising Stars and was invited to the Arsenal – managed soccer clinic that was coincidentally hosted in Accra Ghana. She was unable to attend the clinic which was conducted by Arsenal trained coaches in September 2012 due to the World Cup preparations.
Speaking regarding the feat, Airtel Africa Chief Marketing Officer, Andre Beyers said: “This achievement by the Ghanaian women’s team is a collective success for Africa. The fact that she is part of a select group of talented and aspiring stars who we have invested in with our partners is a testament of the role the Airtel Rising stars is playing in identifying and nurturing emerging talent in Africa”.
Winning bronze is Ghana’s best-ever finish at a FIFA women’s competition and the furthest by any African side at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. The Ghanaian team had a less than ideal start to their campaign with a 2-1 loss to Germany but went on to win three successive games against Uruguay (5-0), China (2-0) and Japan (1-0) to clinch a semi-final berth against France. They lost to the eventual Champions, France 2-0.
Commenting on the same, Airtel Ghana, Managing Director, Philip Sowah said “We are happy that one of our own led these gallant ladies to set a record for female football in Ghana; Airtel is proud to be associated with the rise of Priscilla Okyere.” He added: “In addition to individual talent, The Airtel Rising Stars places a premium on teamwork and her contribution to the team through an incredible work ethic lifted the team.”
Airtel Rising Stars is a sports talent initiative introduced by Airtel in 2011 to discover and nurture talented players under 17 years’ male and female footballers. The initiative has run in 15 Airtel operations across Africa and seeks to expand to all operations in the next season. This program aims at discovering young, talented ones and giving them the platform to become world class football stars.
In addition to Priscilla’s achievements many other talented players across the continent have received their first call ups to their respective under17 national teams. In Ghana, two talented players from this year’s Airtel Rising Stars have been called into the national U17 male team, the Black Starlets.
The second season Airtel Rising Stars saw young stars from various countries get debuts and call ups during and after the program as follows: In Nigeria 3 boys were called into the National under 17 team camp for trials.
In Zambia, a 16 year old boy was picked by Zambia National team coach to be part of a 23 member squad that played Zimbabwe in an international friendly on August 8th 2012. Malawi 3 boys were called into the under 17team who will play against Botswana on 8th September.
In Gabon, some of the rising stars were picked and shortlisted for the National under 17 team to be announced later this month.
In Kenya, 6 boys were scouted by a leading club, AFC Leopards and are poised to start training with the club. In DRC, 12 of the boys from the winning team were chosen to play in the DRC under-17 national team. Ghana’s federation has also sanctioned the call up of 2 boys to the national Under 17 male team.