The Sunday Leader

Airtel Sends 12 Youngsters To Manchester United

Final match

Bharti Airtel, a leading global telecommunications company, has successfully concluded their football trials around the country. In partnership with English football giants, Manchester United, they have selected 12 talented footballers who will have the opportunity of a lifetime when they travel shortly to England to train at the famous Old Trafford with Manchester United.
Launched in July, this first-of-its-kind island-wide hunt for young and talented soccer football players was a rigorous scouting program which covered 14 centers across Sri Lanka and chose the 48 best footballers from around the country for the 2nd stage in Colombo where Manchester United Academy Coaches hosted an intensive football camp and selected the 12 best players.
The 12 Airtel Rising Stars for 2012 as selected by the coaches were W. L. A. Fernando from the Kalutara centre, W. S. D. Sujan Perera from the Colombo centre, R. A. Chathuranga from the Galle centre, R. Saranraj from the Kandy centre, A. D. Dulip Madushanka from the Kalutara centre, L. C. Sajitha Kumara from the Galle centre, B. M. C. B. Ratnayake from the Kurunegala centre, M. Zarwan Johar from the Colombo centre, A. G. E. Prasad from the Colombo centre, H. D. Chandraratne from the Kandy centre, A. R. A. Shazny from the Colombo centre and J. M. Niyas from the Trincomalee centre.
Speaking to the 48 shortlisted players, the Chief Guest, Airtel Brand Ambassador and former Sri Lanka national cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara said, “While only 12 of you will be going to Manchester United, all 48 of you must remember that you are all winners. You have competed with over 8,000 other football enthusiasts and have been selected as the best talent in Sri Lanka.
Suren Goonewardene, CEO/MD of Airtel Lanka in his address said, “as far as Sri Lanka is concerned, this programme 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.”
Under the programme, selections were held in Jaffna, Colombo, Mannar, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Badulla, Kurunegala, Hatton, Kandy, Kalutara, Matara, Negombo, Kilinochchi and Kalmunai to select the best players between the ages of 15-19.
After a grueling session of try outs in the 14 centres the 48 shortlisted players came 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.
Dr Manil Fernando, Chairman of Youth Development, Football Federation of Sri Lanka said, “In our young days, the thought of visiting a prestigious club such as Manchester United was beyond even our dreams. 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.”
The Airtel Rising Stars progamme kick started in July with the endorsement of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and with support from Namal Rajapaksa  MP and the Tharunyata Hetak organization as well as the Football Federation of Sri Lanka.

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