Yesterday morning, a large group of airport staff, VIPs and reporters found their way to the dead beat tarmac of Entebbe International airport.
Most of them had arrived as early as 7:00 a.m while others have spent days if not weeks trying to make to sort minor details for the arrival of the most recognised sports symbol in the universe, the FIFA World Cup trophy.
As the minutes ticked closer to 11:00am, they attracted the attention of even passengers going through rituals at the airport. The journalists were scattered all over the tarmac and the security men had difficulty keeping check, according to a pre-arranged order, which many kept refusing in a bid to get closer to the plane carrying the trophy, thus creating a frantic atmosphere.
When the plane touched down at 10:42 a.m, the expressions on their faces were a gamut of emotions: anxiety, excitement, gratitude.
The frenzied ambience suggested the arrival of something cherished. The reason for this was not far-fetched as the chartered plane carrying the six-kilogram trophy from South Africa on its global tour had landed.
With full lights on and camera phones ready, everyone on the tarmac wanted to grab the historical moment.
However, the brains behind the trophy tour were neither willing to break any of the traditions. Only 30 people, in groups of 10 were ushered into the plane to pose next to the trophy.
It still remains a mystery to many of how the glittering trophy valued at an estimated price of Sh33 billion left the plane to the three waiting cars that delivered it to President Museveni at State House in Entebbe.
The original trophy, which is permanently kept at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich, will visit 51 countries on six continents. Uganda is among the 10 African destinations. 2018 is the fourth time Coca-Cola have joined forces with FIFA to take the trophy to fans across the world.
The globetrot has assumed a life of its own. It’s now one of the most anticipated events ahead of every World Cup.
It’s the trophy every football fan adores and every player dreams of raising above their heads. But the truth is, few of us will ever get to see or touch it.
At least during an elaborate afternoon function at State House, President Museveni had the exquisite moment on behalf of the 44.2 million Ugandans to touch and even lift the trophy with his bare hands.
Museveni, who was flanked by several dignitaries including Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, government chief whip Justine Lumumba, the Russian ambassador and Coca-Cola General Manager of the East Africa franchise Ahmed Rady, promised to ensure that his government will work together to develop local football.
“With raw talent, Uganda almost qualified for the World Cup in Russia. We hope at one time to win this cup and retain it in Uganda. This may take a few years but hopefully in 2022, we’ll be there,” Museveni said.
Uganda finished four points behind eventual Group E winners Egypt, who won the ticket after amassing 13 points.
“It’s a rare opportunity because it shows Fifa’s confidence in Uganda by recognising our football abilities,” he added.
It’s the second time the 36 centimeter-tall trophy is making a sojourn in Kampala following a similar stop in 2009 ahead of the World Cup tournament in South Africa.
The trophy made of solid gold will be available for public viewing today at Lugogo Cricket Oval. Beverage makers Coca-Cola are giving free tickets to those willing to experience the exciting atmosphere at Lugogo where games and music will be offered until 6:00pm. Those without tickets will buy a bottle of soda at the entrance. “Fans will be able to see the trophy up close and have their photo taken with it on Tuesday,” Coca-Cola’s Marketing Manager Maggie Kigozi, said.
Definitely, the magnanimity of the event requires extra caution. For the public viewing, parking will only be available at Shoprite Mall and those who trek to Lugogo will watch the trophy from the glass cage it will be kept in until it leaves for its next destination, Nigeria, on Wednesday morning.