President Yoweri Museveni on Monday pledged to offer USD 1m (Shs 3.69bn) to the Uganda Cranes players for exhibiting a tremendous performance in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Egypt.
The Cranes were knocked out at round of 16 when they lost 1-0 to Senegal. To get to that stage, they had defeated neighbours Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in their opener, held Zimbabwe to a one all stalemate and lost 2-0 to hosts Egypt.
The Head of state was hosting the team led by Captain, Denis Onyango and Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA) officials at a luncheon at State House, Entebbe moments after arriving from Egypt.
”I will organise 1m dollars with the government to distribute it among the players and officials. Of course, the officials will not get as much as the players,” Museveni said.
“Although we didn’t win all our fixtures, we made a good effort and achieved some reasonable success. I don’t know how Senegal got that goal. I see our players are all fit young people. All they need is more stamina”.
According to the President, for Uganda to have qualified for round of 16 out of the 53 countries on the continent is ”a commendable job” and the team ”represented us well” despite a small budget by government to sports. He said he is optimistic that the team has potential of performing better in case of increased funding.
”When Uganda began recovering, we started sports again. Government has not committed to supporting the national team seriously, but we have been doing it in a small way because we are dealing with other pressing issues like; security, education, health, roads, piped water, electricity, ICT,” wrote the President on his Facebook page.
However, this small push is already bringing very good results, when we start supporting it more, imagine what our sportsmen/women can do, he said.
“Because of their entertaining value, games bring unity. It’s not good for people to bring partisan politics in games, if you see anyone doing it, you know they are unserious. Drunkards enjoy games, thieves suspend stealing for 90 minutes. Games are good therapy for society,” he added.
The President advised players to always work harder and prepare well for their older age in order not to live a miserable life then.
”Our sports people from the past have not lived a good adult life. I ask the players to remain disciplined, they should avoid alcohol and womanising.
“I’m very happy that the Cranes went up to the last 16. I know we will perform better next time,” said the President.
Throughout the qualification campaign, the President was so fundamental and supportive to the Cranes by encouraging them as well as offering financial support. He at some point invited the team at State House and provided Shs 200m and offered them a chartered flight to Lesotho for the return game.
This was the first time in Cranes history for Uganda to qualify for the round of 16 as well as winning a game and a draw in over 40 years. Uganda only managed a draw with Mali in the previous AFCON tourney, making this year’s performance better.