The last whistle for the day had been blown as the sun slowly withdrew its stretched arm to conceal itself behind shade of the banyan trees at BKSP. Covered in dirt and sweat, the heart of these tired young souls ran at a rapid pace as they waited for the concluding declaration. Their efforts expressed over five months of hard work, struggle and various other obstacles ranged from personal to physical lengths. But the time had dawned upon them to finally learn their fate -- the grand announcement of 'Airtel Rising Stars' was just moments away.
'Airtel Rising Stars' is a rigorous scouting programme with two rounds conducted over a span of five months, taking place with participation from nearly 10,000 players from 992 schools across Bangladesh out of which only 12 will get the opportunity of a lifetime to visit Manchester United for a weeklong training session. This was a fight to be the ultimate perfectionist on the football field. Four coaches from Manchester United arrived at BKSP to scout the 12 Airtel Rising Star talents from 120 players over a period of four days.
As the final moment had approached us, the Manchester United coaches -- Kevin O'Connell, Liam Solona, Adam Hilton and Dave Chapman -- walked towards the host of the finale and handed the name of the 12 boys to her. A moment of silence prevailed among the 120 players which soon turned into loud cheers of joy as the host announced the name of the finalists. The 12 boys who etched their names forever in history as the finalists of the second season of Airtel Rising Stars are: Md. Mustajik Khan from BKSP, Savar (Dhaka); Md. Mahadud Hossain Fahim from BKSP, Savar (Dhaka); Md. Anik Hossain from Narayanganj; Md. Nayeem Islam from Rajshahi; Md. Emon Biswas from BKSP, Dinajpur; Mahbubur Rahman from Moulivibazar; Md. Hafizur Rahman from Jessore; Md. Solaiman Haque from Jamalpur; Md. Mashiur Rahman from Gaibandha; Md. Khokon Miya from Jamalpur; Md. Sabbir Hossain from Rajshahi; and Md. Sohanur Rahman from BKSP, Khulna. Overwhelmed and in utter disbelief, the final 12 stood with their gold medals in hand realising that they just took a long stride towards their dream of visiting Manchester United.
Mashiur Rahman from Gaibandha, while receiving his medal, burst into tears and almost collapsed. The special guest at the ceremony, High Commissioner of United Kingdom, Robert W. Gibson, along with Airtel officials had to help the boy on to his feet. Mashiur had to go all the way to Rangpur from Gaibandha to register for Airtel Rising Stars. During a conversation, he recalled that there was no food at home the day he left for participating in Rising Stars. With his mother's blessings, he dodged all obstacles to become one of the finalists. There were many whose parents had played a major role in their passion for football, like Anik Hossain from Narayanganj. He could not help but miss his father during the auspicious moment. Like Anik Hossain, another finalist, Mahadud Hossain, thanked his parents and the coaches of BKSP for their support.
Many of these talented youngsters are expected to shine in the near future when they take football as their profession. When they do, Bangladesh will be gaining a new crop of heroes to be the beacon for the country spreading the light throughout the world. For the time being, these kids will be experiencing the time of their lives.