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Aliyah Zaranyika

Financial support from Entain Holdings and SportsAid could be the key ingredient in helping Aliyah Zaranyika achieve her international netball ambitions, according to the Saracens Mavericks rising star.

The 18-year-old is a recent recipient of the award, with the two bodies having partnered up in a three-year agreement in 2019, aiming to help young athletes across the UK realise their potential.

Zaranyika – who has recently enrolled on a law and politics degree at Royal Holloway University – enjoyed a breakthrough start to 2020, being selected for the England Roses Academy programme in January before making her senior Saracens Mavericks debut weeks later.

And the Enfield-based athlete – who can play either goal defence or wing defence – believes the injection of funding will enable her to remain on track to establish herself in the Superleague, and go on to achieve full international honours.

“I started receiving the funding in April and it’s definitely made a huge difference already,” said Zaranyika, one of 50 beneficiaries of Entain’s programme which is part of the Pitching In initiative.

“I’ve been able to buy new trainers, new kit for training and equipment to train at home, so it’s allowed me to stay at the top of my game in the current climate in which there is still a lot of uncertainty because of the impact of coronavirus.

“I wouldn’t have been able to stay at my current level without it, and going forward it’s going to make a massive difference in enabling me to afford things like travel and accommodation, especially now that I’ve moved to university.”

As well as funding for training, travel and equipment, athletes on the SportsAid programme receive valuable mentoring by Olympians and Paralympians on topics such as nutrition and sports psychology.

The young athletes will be following in the footsteps of legendary figures such as Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Mo Farah, Dame Sarah Storey and Ellie Simmonds OBE – all of whom received SportsAid support – and more recent beneficiaries including Dina Asher-Smith and Adam Peaty MBE.

And despite being relatively new to the initiative, Zaranyika is confident the wide-ranging benefits of the scheme will stand her in good stead as she ultimately aims to replicate the successes of netball hero Sasha Corbin at the top of the game.

She said: “Besides the financial help, receiving recognition from SportsAid has definitely improved my confidence as an athlete because it shows they have belief in me.

“Some of the people who have received funding before are up there with the biggest names in British sport, so it makes you think that you can go on and do the same.”

Entain is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. As part of this three-year partnership, Entain are supporting a diverse group of 50 UK athletes per year from a variety of spots and para-sports. Visit entaingroup.com to find out more.