The long wait was over in the early hours of Tuesday, March 14 evening as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) president Aleksander Čeferin and his entourage touched at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda.
Red Carpet Treatment: UEFA president Čeferin greets the young girl - Darlene Nabasanyusa (L) soon after receiving a bouquet from flowers from her at Entebbe International Airport on the evening of March 14. (All Photos/Francis Isaano - Next Media)
Smiles of genuineness greeted Čeferin on stepping down on the Pearl of Africa turf for the first time after his short flight from Rwanda where he will fly back to attend the 73rd Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) Congress scheduled for March 16 at the BK Arena in Kigali.
Čeferin’s courteous persona was already on show; opting to engage one of The Aliguma Foundation’s young beneficiaries Darlene Nabasanyusa before picking up a bouquet of fresh flowers from the smitten one that was donning a white t-shirt with emblazoned with a welcome message and image of the Uefa president on its front.
The foundation’s CEO Ritah Aliguma had the top honchos of Uganda’s sports administration led by the State Minister of Sports Hon. Peter Ogwang, National Council of Sports (NCS) chairman Ambrose Tashobya and the NCS General Secretary Dr. Bernard Patrick Ogwel for company while welcoming the 55-year-old Slovenian lawyer.
After a small meeting at Entebbe’s Very Important Persons (VIP) Lounge, Čeferin offered the media a few minutes during which he poured out his heart from UEFA to the people of Uganda and good works by The Aliguma Foundation to inspire the less-privileged through sports and enterprise, especially football.
“I have had a very great reception. It was very welcoming and I feel great,” Čeferin, with a smile plastered across his face, told NBS Sport.
Welcome To The Pearl: Čeferin (2nd L) and his entourage are greeted by Aliguma Foundation CEO Ritah Aliguma (C) and government officials on his first-ever visit to Uganda.
“First of all, we will go and see what our foundation did in the slum (Acholi Quarters) of Kampala. I am looking forward to seeing children and cheering them playing football and hopefully I will get to play with them, too.
Pledge to support more
“Our (UEFA) Foundation For Children is supporting Aliguma Foundation and we saw immediately that they’re doing a fantastic job and we said that we have to help and now I have come to see what we did. You know it’s different if you just support something from Europe and it’s also different if you travel here and actually see what is happening. It is great to be here in Uganda.”
On a personal note, Čeferin was eager to make his debut visit to Uganda and he also hinted offered more support for not only the foundation but for the development of the beautiful game in Uganda.
High Calibre Personalities: UEFA boss Čeferin is welcomed by State Minister For Sports Hon. Peter Ogwang (R) in the VIP Lounge of Entebbe International Airport.
“I love Africa, it is my first time in Uganda. I will see more over the next 24 hours but I have a feeling I might come back. UEFA as the biggest sports organization in the world has to know that African players are important and we are ready to give back our knowledge and help them develop. One thing is supporting the Aliguma Foundation and the other we want to look at is supporting football development here on the side of authorities and Ugandan people,” added the former president of the Football Association of Slovenia (NZS).
Best in Africa
In another interview conducted the country’s top sports presenter Andrew Kabuura at The Lawns Restaurant located at the Lower Kololo Terrace Road in Kampala, just a stone’s throw away from the Kololo Airstrip and the exquisite championship course at Uganda Golf Club and sanctuary of sports – Lugogo Sports Complex, Čeferin talked about African soccer.
“We (UEFA) also know that African fans are big supporters of European football. Trust me I had a lot of pressure from the Minister (Ogwang) and Ritah (CEO Aliguma Foundation) about it and I promised them that we will do something about it,” he said.
On his best African players in Europe of yesteryears and today, the UEFA boss had made interesting but deserved picks of players that haven’t just only achieved at the highest of levels but also given back to humanitarian causes back in their countries.
Sports Honchos: (L-R); NCS Chairman Ambrose Tashobya, UEFA's Čeferin, Aliguma Foundation beneficiary Darlene Nabasanyusa, CEO Ritah Aliguma, Minister Peter Ogwang and NCS General Secretary Dr Patrick Bernard Ogwel pose for a picture in the VIP Lounge.
“The two that are not playing any more for me are Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast legend9) and Samuel Eto’o (now Cameroonian FA president). I have to also mention George Weah (Liberia). And for now, the best among those active are Sadio Mane (Senegal captain) and Mohammed Salah (Egypt’s inspirational ace),” he concluded.
Čeferin and his entourage will attend a Slums Schools Sports Gala at Acholi Quarters today where he will also get to see firsthand the immense talents and skills of the elderly women and girl-child during an exhibition at the Kireka-Banda B1 Zone resettlement of the underprivileged.
“It is my singular honour to receive and welcome the president of UEFA Mr. Aleksander Čeferin to Uganda. It is a noble privilege to have you here for the first time. I am optimistic that your visit will breathe new life and hope for our under-privileged young talent” Hon. Ogwang, the State Minister for Sports noted.
Face The Press: Čeferin fields questions from top sports presenter Andrew Kabuura (R) on NBS Sports at The Lawns Restaurant - Lower Kololo Terrace Road in Kampala on arrival.
The entourage from UEFA comprises of; the Secretary General Urs Kluser, Kevin Lamour (Member of the Board) and Srsen Matej, a consultant. After their five-hour engagements in Acholi Quarters today, the special quartet will wrap up their stay in Uganda with a visit to the State House in Nakasero, Kampala for a meeting with the First Lady and Hon. Minister of Education and Sports – Mama Janet Kataaha Museveni.