By Emma Ssonko
President Yoweri Museveni has proposed that government should consider supporting retiring sports heroes through bursaries so they can be employed in other professional disciplines they desire or get employment with the government.
President Museveni, who was together with the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Mrs. Janet Kataaha Museveni, was on Thursday evening bidding farewell to Dennis Onyango, the former Cranes captain who recently announced his retirement.
Museveni said that just like the army, sports are mainly physical and therefore one needs to effectively participate when still young.
“However at 35, a sportsman can still serve the country for another 20 years if deployed in civil service or given bursaries to train in higher institutions of learning in a discipline of their choice,” Museveni said.
Museveni applauded Onyango and the sports fraternity to carrying the Ugandan flag high and bringing the country’s name on the map of world sports.
“We thank you, sports people. Though government has not been supporting you fully, we support you indirectly through immunization, UPE, peace and security, which enables the development of your talents”, he said.
He said that after sorting out the priority areas in the budget including building the infrastructure; electricity, roads, railway, government can embark on supporting sports areas like building stadia.
President Museveni also suggested that the new government should get time to discuss the issue of exporting sport skills to other countries saying that Ugandans with sports talents are becoming entertainers outside the country.
“I congratulate Onyango for what he has done. We shall get time in the new government and decide on this export scheme whether it is good or bad. What can we do to keep our sportsmen here,” he said.
Museveni was responding to the First Lady’s concern that even after building up sports and skills with all the sports cadres, they end up going abroad.
He urged Ugandans to listen to his advice of working not only for the stomach but also for the pocket so that Uganda can attain middle-income status, saying that this will enable people to support sports activities as fans.
“When people have enough money in their pockets, they can use the surplus for entertainment”, he said.
The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Mrs. Janet Museveni applauded Onyango for giving Uganda so much pride as a country when he stood at the helm of the Uganda Cranes and said that bidding him farewell is sad.
She said there is need to deliberately plan for sports and building the sports people so that even when such people like Onyango retire from playing football, they can become coaches.
“We need to build on what we have. We cannot grow if whoever we prepare leaves and goes away for ‘greener pastures, because we need the Onyangos to be the coaches of the new teams, that is how nations are built. That is how those nations with super teams grow”, she said.
Onyango who was accompanied by his mother and sister said he was retiring from local football at 35 years to enable the young players take over and still has about three more active years to play in international sports.
He thanked President Museveni and government for the support given to him and said he had served the sport for 16 years.
The President and the First Lady later gifted Uganda’s heroic sports star with a brand new Pajero Sport vehicle.