The Airtel Rising Stars (ARS) U17 football tournament has produced many successful football players both boys and girls. These have ended up playing for different top clubs and national teams.
The list is big but Kawempe Muslim SS striker Juliet Nalukenge is one of the players that have inspired young girls to play football through taking part in the ARS tournament.
This year’s tournament will climax early next month in Kampala with the national finals but the regional qualifiers climax this weekend in Masindi with Kitara and Western regions championships.
In Soroti eight days ago, She Kataka won the Eastern Eastern Region qualifiers championship after 5-3 penalty win over Town View-Bugiri in the final following a barren normal time draw.
However, it was the side’s diminutive striker Esther Namataka who turned out the center of attraction to the crowds at Soroti grounds.
Apart from helping She Kataka claim the Girls regional title, Namataka’s splendid performance enabled her claim the Most Valuable player (MVP) and top scorer honors after finishing with four goals.
The teenage forward revealed that she draws inspiration from Kawempe Muslim SS and Crested Cranes striker Juliet Nalukenge. “She (Nalukenge) is an inspiration to me. She is a great young player for our national team. I also like her style of play, runs and the way she scores goals. This is why I work so hard to be like her at a bigger stage,” noted Namataka, who applauded Airtel-Uganda for the ARS tournament initiative that has exposed many young talents. “I thank Airtel for giving us a platform to showcase our talents. The ARS tournament has helped many of us keep our football dreams alive,” she added.
Nalukenge took part in the 2016 edition of ARS tournament with Kawempe Muslim and since then, she has seen her football career gradually grow.
Namataka, who is a big fan of USA star Megan Rapinone, has a dream of playing at the Crested Cranes in future and featuring for a professional club.
She will have a chance to showcase her talent at a bigger stage during the national finals in Kampala early next month after being named on the Eastern Region selected squad for national finals.
The regional winners take home Shs1.5m each while the runners up get Shs1m. The national champions have Shs7m at stake while the runners up have Shs5m.
Airtel-Uganda also gives out football equipment to five schools from each region as part of this year’s campaign.