Former Gunner Lauren travelled to both Uganda and Rwanda at the end of last season to act as an Ambassador for the Club at a series of events organised by Airtel in Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.
The Cameroon international was present to help launch the third season of Airtel’s hugely popular Rising Stars tournament; the largest pan-African grass-roots football tournament for under-17s, and to attend a special screening of the Arsenal v Manchester United game for Airtel customers and prize winners.
The combative right back also paid a visit to two of Uganda’s biggest radio stations in Kampala to talk about his time with the Club and give away tickets to lucky callers to a special evening in his company that night. Guests were treated to an intimate dinner and Q&A session and took home several special signed prizes, courtesy of Airtel.
Lauren also helped kick off the third season of Rising Stars in the company of representatives of the Ugandan FA by spending some time with last year’s Ugandan team and passing on some invaluable tips and advice. He also put the team through their paces with some short passing and shooting drills.
Lauren’s final engagement in Uganda was the screening of the Manchester United game at the National Conference Centre with a specially-invited audience of more than 200 Ugandan fans. He entertained the crowd with tactical analysis at half time and full time, and also participated in a lively Q&A session.
He then travelled on to Rwanda in order to launch Rising Stars - the first time the tournament has run in the country. However, before getting started he took the opportunity to spend a few hours visiting the National Genocide Memorial in order to learn more about the country's tragic past, and to pay his respects to victims, while making a donation to the Centre’s ongoing community work on behalf of Airtel.
After lunch with some of the country’s biggest Arsenal fans, who had won their places through an Airtel competition, Lauren moved on to the National Stadium to help launch Rising Stars in the presence of the permanent secretary to the Minister of Sport, before boarding a plane back home.
Meanwhile, One of the Club’s greatest-ever captains and defenders, Tony Adams, travelled to Ghana where he embarked on a full itinerary, meeting the many Ghanaians who are simply crazy about the Gunners. The double ‘Double’ winner gave numerous radio and TV interviews, including an appearance on TV3’s popular ‘Diva Show’.
Tony also attended a press launch of Rising Stars and was also invited to the British High Commissioner’s residence to promote Airtel’s work in the country through Rising Stars, where he presented the vice president of Ghana, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, with a signed shirt - a thrilling moment for the ardent Arsenal supporter.
Adams - who played 669 games for Arsenal, scoring 48 goals - also attended a live screening of the Manchester United game at the University of Ghana in Legon where he was delighted to chat to the students and give away Arsenal prizes. He was joined by Airtel ambassadors Sammy Kuffour, who starred for Bayern Munich in the 1990s, and Nii Lamptey, who played for Aston Villa and Coventry City.
Continuing the African theme, Dr Ali Alibhai, the Arsenal Academy doctor since 1999, also recently travelled to Uganda - specifically Jinja - where his 19-year-old son Josh has been volunteering at an orphanage on his gap year - and took some very special cargo.
“Before I went out to see Josh I spoke to academy kit manager Dennis Rockall and explained about the passion these youngsters have for football and Arsenal in particular,” said Dr Alibhai. "Dennis was good enough to let me take some kit with me and the children were so thankful for the gesture from the Club.”
The kit proved a real highlight of the boys’ year, as Dr Alibhai explained. “These boys have had to leave their family homes because their parents cannot afford to keep them, so it’s obviously a very difficult situation for them," he said. "They are supported by voluntary donations and it’s not every day that they receive something as exciting as an Arsenal shirt.”
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.