Ezra offers Shs1.6b if Cranes qualify

Tuesday October 5 2010

By Mark Namanya


Ezra’s offer
Each player- $30,000
Coach - $60,000
Assistant coach - $25,000
Goalkeeping coach - $25,000
If Cranes beat Kenya- $50,000

Enigmatic tycoon Michael Ezra has dropped another bombshell by offering Uganda Cranes $650,000 (Shs1.5b) should the team break a 34-year jinx of not qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations. That figure could rise to $700,000 (Shs1.6b) if Uganda win in Kenya at the weekend.

Speaking to Daily Monitor on phone from Nyayo stadium where Cranes will play Kenya’s Harambee Stars in a crucial Group J qualifier on Saturday, Ezra said he is incensed by the country’s perpetual failure to reach the finals. “I wanted to see where Cranes will be playing, so I came here to acquaint myself. Our failure to qualify since 1978 is the reason I’m making this unprecedented offer because countries inferior to ours have managed to make it.”

Ezra, who owes Shs1b in unpaid taxes and National Bank of Commerce sh400m as an outstanding loan, is adamant he will return to Ugandan ‘as soon as there is need.’ “My issues are in the hands of the lawyers. Those are legal matters that will be settled by them (lawyers). Life goes on.”

Biggest prize
Should Cranes reach the 2012 tournament to be hosted in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, the team will considerably receive the biggest prize in the history of Ugandan sport.
Each of the 18 players stands to receive $30,000 (Shs68m). The Cranes coach would pocket $60,000 (Shs136m) with his assistant and goalkeeping coach receiving $25,000 (Shs57m) apiece.

An extra $50,000 (Shs114m) will be won by the whole team if Cranes can win on Saturday. “This is a small token to boost their morale this weekend,” explained Ezra. “If the boys can beat Kenya, they will receive this in addition to $650,000 at the conclusion of the campaign next year. I would love to be there as we sort these Kenyans and put them in their rightful place.” Three years ago, Ezra rewarded Cranes $100,000 (Shs178m at the time) after he was impressed by their efforts in the failed bid to reach Ghana 2008.

Better chance
Initially he had pledged the money as an inducement for qualification. “I believe we have a better chance than when I gave them $100,000 and I do strongly feel we will qualify.”
It was in the same campaign that he rescued the national team with Shs60m worth of air tickets for the trip to Niger.

In archetypal flamboyance, he has promised to offer the money on a tray. “I will use a tray because the money can’t fit on a plate. And unlike last time, there will be no wire transfers; every individual must be present and the handover will be watched by all Ugandans on camera.”

He additionally guaranteed that no unseen circumstance would put a halt to his promise. “Even in death, somebody will act on my behalf. I will deliver because I haven’t failed before. I thus don’t expect Cranes players or fans to have doubts.”