By Our reporter

President Yoweri Museveni has hosted a special luncheon for the Uganda Cranes football team at State House, Entebbe to congratulate them upon their recent qualification for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).

“I want to commend the team for the successes so far in the campaign to represent Uganda at the World Cup in 2018. This luncheon is a sign that Uganda appreciates the Uganda Cranes,” he said.

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On 4th September 2016, the Uganda Cranes team beat Togo at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole in Kampala to qualify for AFCON after 38 years of not qualifying.

President Museveni appealed to the players to remain good ambassadors and represent the country well.  “Football goes beyond fitness and entertainment. It promotes the country to the outside world,” he said.

He said that government would support the team to excel and prosper. He also promised to increase the bonuses paid to the Uganda Cranes footballers from US$10,000 to a flat rate of US$15,000. The Uganda Cranes’ are paid US$10,000 in bonuses per match played and US$ 15,000 for each match won.

The President further promised to research more about the salaries of football players in Africa so that players can stay and play professional football in Uganda. This, he said, would enable the team to train together. “The strategic issue here is how to make the ‘nomads’ to get maximum results through training together,” he emphasized.

The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni, said that the Ministry is committed to the development of sports at national level and in schools.

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“As a Ministry, we know of the many advantages for a country in developing its sports sector. We value sports and we want to see our country continue to excel in sports,” she said.

The President of the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA), Mr. Moses Hassim Magogo, thanked President Museveni for the morale and support adding that it has always been a huge boost to the team.

“On every occasion we have reached out to you, you have listened and all those times we have won,” said Magogo.

The Uganda Cranes goalkeeper, Denis Onyango, promised that the team would continue fighting to represent Uganda at more football tournaments.

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“The more we perform on the pitch, the more we raise the flag and have government interest in us,” he said.

Kampala City Authority Minister, Kamya Betty, State Minister for Sports, Hon. Charles Bakabulindi and Airtel Uganda Managing Director, Mr. Anwar Soussa, attended the luncheon.