Uganda captain Onyango seeks clarity from President Museveni over $1 million pledge

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The captain of Uganda’s national football team said on Tuesday he and his team mates are seeking clarity on a $1 million pledge that President Yoweri Museveni made to the players last year after their participation in the 2019 African Cup of Nations.

The cash pledged would be shared among the players and help them deal with the financial struggles caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, said Denis Onyango, who was voted the best African-based player of 2016.

The Cranes, as they are known, made a surprising run to the last 16 in Egypt last July before losing 1-0 to eventual finalists Senegal.

Their campaign in Cairo was marred by a payment row with players refusing to train at one point. The disagreement was resolved after the Ugandan Football Federation (FUFA) said it had offered the players an additional $6,000 each.

Upon the team’s return to Uganda, they were invited to a gathering with Museveni at State House in the capital Entebbe where the head of state made the pledge, Onyango said.

“We were invited to the State House and he promised us something,” the goalkeeper told Reuters in a phone interview from South Africa where he plays for Mamelodi Sundowns in the country’s top league.

“We’ve tried all means of getting to him but we failed,” Onyango added.

“Sports has been hit more because people can’t gather, people can’t come around to watch football.”

So far Uganda has recorded 797 COVID-19 cases and no deaths. It began easing its lockdown, one of the strictest on the continent, in mid-May, but football has yet to resume.

Museveni’s press secretary, Don Wanyama, said the players’ message reached the president.

“A reminder has been sent to the president to respond to it,” Wanyama said.