Deputy Minister for Information, Youth, Culture and Sports Amos Makala has implored young footballers to take the game seriously and focus on becoming successful in the sport. 

Makala issued the challenge when officiating at the closing of the national Under-17 Airtel Rising Stars finals held at Karume Memorial Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

The Deputy Minister reminded the youngsters that football was a great career opportunity and urged them to work hard towards realising their dream.

The ARS championship is expected to fill the vacuum in the Under-17 competition category in the wake of TFF's decision to move the annual Copa Coca-Cola youth tournament to Under-15, with a view to harness and expose talent from a younger age.

And Makala reiterated the importance of the tournament in building strong national youth teams, saying the event provides the platform for national youth team coach Jakob Michelsen to recruit his players.

He commended Airtel Tanzania for supporting youth football but challenged the mobile-phone company to extend the championship countrywide.

Makala also called on other companies to come out and invest in youth sports programmes. This year's event brought together six regions -- Dar es Salaam (divided in three soccer regions of Ilala, Kinondoni and Temeke), Morogoro, Mwanza, Kigoma, Ruvuma and Mbeya.

The thrilling youth finals saw Mwanza boys emerge champions after edging out Morogoro 1-0 in a tough but exciting match held at Karume Memorial Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

The girls' trophy went to Kinondoni following their 1-0 victory over Ilala.The lone goal that elevated Mwanza to the top spot of the one-week national finals was scored by Athanas Mdam with a powerful shoot in the 34th minute. The talented striker has won himself admiration among fans for his unique football skills and it did not come as a surprise when he was declared the best scorer of the tournament.

Apart from Mdam, other outstanding players selected by a panel of coaches are Arafat Mussa (best goalkeeper) from Kinondoni and Omary Hussein (overall best player) from Ilala. The tournament also produced six players (three boys and three girls) who will attend an international football clinic to be held in the Democratic Republic of Congo under the supervision of coaches from Manchester United coaching schools. They are Anna Hebron, Niwael Halfan, Shelda Boniface, Athanas Mdam, Thomas Chindeka and Omary Hassan. The Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) also named possible boys and girls players for the coming inter-country Airtel championships slated for Nigeria in September.

The lists will be further scrutinized to get 16 best players who will travel to Nigeria. The boys list is made up of Arafat Mussa, Fred Bakari, Emmanuel Innocent and Willy Karolo (Kinondoni), Aziz Hassan, Omary Hussein, Joseph Mushi, Saddy Said and Said Danda (Ilala), Rothan Mkanwa, Petro Mgaya, George Chota, Ramadhani Kondo and Optamus Lupekenya (Morogoro).

The others are Bruno Shayo, Luseke Kiggi, Martini Lusseke and Athanas Mdam (Mwanza), Thomas Chindeka, Miraji Kingaye and Salum Issa (Temeke) and Michael Bosco (Mbeya). The girls are Najihati Abbas, Stumai Abdallah, Anastazia Anthon, Tatu Iddi, Shelda Boniphace, Rehema Yahya and Anna Bebron (Kinondoni), Niwael Halfan, Amina Ramadhan, Latifa Ahmed and Alafa Abdul (Temeke). The others are Vumilia Maharifa, Donisia Daniel, Maimuna Khamis and Amina Ally Ilala), Khadija Hiza (Tanga), Mwamvita Tabago, Shakila Hashimu, Zainabu Bakari (Kigoma), Shamimu Ally and Farida Mohamed (Ruvuma).

The Airtel Rising Stars programme aims at identifying and nurturing budding soccer talent from the grassroots onto an international stage. The programme, which was launched in 2011, targets both boys and girls between the ages of 13-17.