The second edition of the Safaricom Sakata Ball football tournament has been launched with Sh3.5 million at stake, up from Sh1.5 last year.

For the first time girls have also been incorporated into the tournament in which Grand national final winners will big Sh500, 000 for boys and Sh250, 000 for girls.

Runners up will get Sh300, 000 and Sh150, 000 for boys and girls categories.

From Left:Former Harambee Stars players Joe Kadenge, Josphat Murila and Allan Thigo pose for a photograph with Safaricom’s Cleo Mbeo (in Green jacket), yesterday. [PHOTO: COURTESY/STANDARD

Regional champions will be awarded Sh100, 000(boys) and Sh50, 000(girls).

Bukembe FC, from Western Kenya, are hoping to successfully defend the boy’s category they won last year after edging out Bondo Rangers from Nyanza in the finals.

The second edition was launched in Nairobi at a high profile function yesterday, which was graced by Sports Commissioner Gordon Oluoch.

Safaricom is targeting a total of 2696 teams; 896 girls and 1800 boys with a total of 31000 players to participate in this year’s edition whose logistics have been expanded.

The countrywide tournament will commence from the grass root level where teams will contest for provincial slots.

Grand finale

Regional winners will face off for national title in Nairobi for in a two-day grand finale in August.

"For the second year running, Safaricom will be going round the country in search of the finest football talent. After a successful Sakata Ball 2010 campaign, we promise to continue providing a platform through which our Kenyan football talent can be unearthed and presented to a national audience with an eye on life changing opportunities. This will help nurture Kenya’s next generation of football superstars," said Peter Arina, the Safaricom’s Chief Commercial Officer.

The tournament has several success stories that include Gor Mahia and Harambee Stars striker Abdul Malik Mohammed from Taqwa FC and Ali Yusuf of Western Stima from Kitale Solidarity.

Sakataba Ball helped identify Anthony Mbugua at Bukembe FC– now at Liberty Academy in Nairobi.

Life skills

Other prolific players who sprung out of the event are Ali Mwajuma, Enock Agwanda Obiero and Kennedy Omondi.

Apart from football, the players will be fully kitted by Safaricom and also benefit from life skills training.

The season’s first regional finals are planned for Machakos (Eastern Region) on February 19 to 20 at Kenyatta Stadium.

The event aims to develop young football talent in the country. The competition is open to players aged between 17- 23.

Safaricom has partnered with National Youth and Talent Academy (NYTA) that will select players in this year’s edition.

The 22 players to be selected will be offered a six-month full scholarship at the NYTA.